I have a 2-4 hour wait at Jamaica (for the LIRR)
After my flight, where should I go?
What' s an easy subway or bus ride?
Or should I go into the city & take the LIRR from there?
Is Pahal Zan in Forest Hills near subway/transportation? Is it worth trying?
I'm looking for an interesting, safe walking & shopping neighborhood, this is during the day.
If you are waiting 2-4 hours for LIRR I would suspect you are going to eastern LI, ie. beyond Patchogue or Ronkonkoma. I know those trains are infrequent midday.
I myself would get out of Jamaica if I had to kill 2-4 hours. You could go to Woodside and hit an Irish place, or your Forest Hills idea is OK too.
If in fact you are going to eastern LI you could even take LIRR to a stop like Hicksville or Mineola. Hicksville has quite a few Indian places. Even if your ticket is for the Hamptons they will let you get off and back on another train a few hours later, the conductor will mark the back of your ticket if you ask. At least you are going in the right direction and not backwards.
I'd second Sripraphai (as long as you're not talking about a Wednesday, wehn they're closed). Take the first train to Woodside, go down the stairs near the front of the train, make two left turns and walk about four blocks under the subway. Then you can just grab a train at Woodside to go back east.
Just take the J train to El Anzuelo Fino (excellent Peruvian seafood restaurant but double check the address) on I believe 81st and Jamaica for a shot of real New York under an el and some excellent food. Alternatively, you can simply walk to Hillside and get a bus or walk to 169th and Hillside (very close) which is a very important Bangladeshi hub. You would be able to eat at Ghoroa (my favorite), or Sagar, or Sagar Chinese (Indian Chinese.) There's also a little Bengali shopping in the area. 2 hours is not enough time to go to the city at all. Why go to Forest Hills and rush when you can stay closer and get better food? Forest Hills, Jackson Heights, etc are within reach, but if we're talking 2 hours then it's not worth it. With 4 hours those could be worthwhile, but not the city. The city would require 2 hours of traveling or more in total.
The area and the areas I mentioned are 100% safe except at night around Jamaica, but even then the station area is heavily policed. Everywhere in New York City is safe even places like East New York (I'm not saying I'd hang out on the corner all day and walk in circles but it's 100% fine to walk through and eat in. Amazing Nigerian food over there!) during the day, but I stay wary during the times the schools let out (I'm only 19 so I'm easily targeted or caught up in the foolishness that goes on in those hours in rougher areas.)
If you insist on treking out to Forest Hills/Rego Park area then I think you'd much prefer Cheburechnaya for amazing Uzbek Jewish food. Also, if you go to JH or Elmhurst then eat street food (or Indianized Bangladeshi at Deshi Biryani on 37th Ave) in the former and Thai at Chao Thai or Nusura Thai in the latter.
Just had a meal of rice, dal, shutki (dried fish of happiness), and kerala at Ghoroa today and it reminded me once again why I ate there about three times a week. 8 dollars for the above with tea and a little salad. They're been doing shutki regularly of late and they do it very well so I'm quite pleased with that. Everything was delicious, I'm friendly with a staff to the point that they were helping me look for apartments, and I COMPLETELY destroyed my crash diet (152 lbs atm but I need to be at 139 for a tournament on August 3rd. Ugh.)
Unless you are waiting to meet someone, I can't imagine that you would have to wait for 2-4 hours for a train in the middle of the day.
That said, the LIRR at Jamaica is right above the E train. The E train will take you to Forest Hills in ten minutes and to Jackson Heights in 15. You will find more upscale shopping and eateries at Forest Hills. There is a LIRR stop in Forest Hills as well, I think a train stops there about once an hour. Jackson Heights is perfectly safe and interesting and tastier. If you go into the city, you are going to have to go to one area to eat and then find your way to Penn Station, as there is not much to eat around there, IMO you may as well stay in Queens, it'll be a shorter train ride and one train to and from your destination.
I think it would be helpful to know what your final destination is, and what you will be carrying with in terms of bags.
If you are heading out to the Hamptons, and don't mind schlepping around your stuff, you may want to head into Manhattan and perhaps take the Hampton Jitney, thus foregoing the LIRR altogether. That way, depending on the schedule, and what you are carrying with you, you could do a little chowing in Manhattan (where the options will definitely be more plentiful before heading out to your destination.
If you are heading to the North Fork, then I am not sure if there is a similar bus service, and you would be stuck with the LIRR, which does run infrequently out there.
You could take the LIRR or 10 minute taxi to Forest Hills and have great Pizza @ Nicks on Ascan Avenue. 2 hours Forest Hills, 4 hours Flushing or Manhattan, or....E train from Jamaica center to 74th St, Jackson heights and you could have Indian, Thai, Argie, and a host of others.
Near Jamaica train station is safe... during the day that is :)
There are a few Irish pubs near the station but I am forgetting names off the top of my head so I appoligize, there's shopping near the station, I've visted a few liquor stores over there over the years.
If you go into Manhattan on the rail road you'll have many more options as for "where to go's" and then the Manhattan board will give you 1000's of idea's, or you could check out some local food websites such as midtownlunch.com to find something worthwhile to kill those few hours.
Forrest Hills, has not only the LIRR, but they also have subway transportation. Check MTA.info for maps etc, and even cross reference with googlemaps for addresses to get an idea how far or close some items might be for you.
Best of luck.