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"Obscure" ethnic eats

Hi. Grew up in NY but now in Chicago. Whenever I come home, I like trying off-the-beaten-path ethnic restaurants. Stuff I can't find in Chicago.

For example, on recent trips home had Yemeni food on Atlantic Avenue, Indonesian in Elmhurst, and Algerian in the East Village.

Coming home for the weekend. Any suggestions? Preferably close to a subway. Lunch or dinner is OK. Prefer Brooklyn or Queens, but open to the other outer boroughs too.

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  1. Fuzhou food has been on the rise of late - beyond the usual hand-pulled noodle joints - in Manhattan Ah Ping Snack Bar is a great little hole in the wall, and I'm sure there are a few good places out in Flushing as well

    Also worth checking out is the Western Chinese cuisine of Xi'An Famous Foods in Flushing (with two other locations in Manhattan now) - cumin-heavy, spicy, delicious stuff.

    Xi'an Famous Foods
    41-28 Main St, Queens, NY 11355

    19 Replies
    1. re: sgordon

      Also try out Henan Feng Wei which has its own extensive thread. That place does a lot of the Western Chinese dishes which Xi'an Famous Foods does, but their yangrou paomo and other soups blow Xian's versions out of the water.

      Uighur food at Cafe Kashkar in Brighton Beach, though only a few dishes on the menu are properly Uighur.

      Cafe "Your Mother in Law" on Brighton 4th off Brighton Beach Ave (very hard to spot due to scaffolding) is the only Korean Uzbek place I know of in NYC and it has some top notch Korean dishes alongside very good Uzbek food. No English spoken, but it's easy enough to point and order.

      There's a place called Caucasian Gardens I've been meaning to try for about 2 years now on Avenue U. Anyone been? Judging by the name and the menu (and the lack of Georgian anywhere) I think it's actually a North Caucasian restaurant. The place carries specialties from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Russia's North Caucasian republics and provinces. I'm guessing the staff are a mixed bag.

      1001 Nights recently opened nearby in an awful location next to Oakley's on Neptune. The menu is really intriguing with some VERY traditional Uzbek wedding and feast food on offer if you order it in advance (and at 80 or so for 8-12 people it's not pricey at all.)

      The Bronx has an amazing Ghanaian place called Papaye which is easily reachable on the Grand Concourse. Festac Grill in East New York (Brooklyn) also has some of the best Nigerian food I've ever eaten, but I haven't been there in 2 years.

      You can get very traditional Sicilian food with minimal Americanization at Joe's of Avenue U in Brooklyn.

      Ghoroa in Jamaica has decent Bangladeshi food, but it's nothing amazing. Mumbai Xpress and Usha have better Gujju and Punjabi snacks and sweets than anywhere in Chicago (or so I've heard), though I'm boycotting Mumbai Xpress after their 3rd price hike in a year (and about 5 bill discrepancy incidents. And the fact they add tax now. And the fact that the wife will give you a free bottle of water only to get countered by her husband 10 minutes later who charges you for it.)

      In terms of really interesting and good food days, Flushing takes the cake. You can eat the food of over a dozen Chinese regions in a few hours plus excellent South Indian food is a medium length walk away and Korean places dot the area too (as well as Korean Chinese ones.) Hell, Flushing used to have the most amazing Uighur stall, but unfortunately it closed and then the mall it was in closed (Roosevelt.) I chased the guy up via US Uighur associations but he apparently moved to Turkey where he has relatives. Really a shame as his food was some of the best Central Asian fair I've ever had and was largely a lot better than Uighur food in Xinjiang (I like the composition of my samsas to not be 99% fat, thank you very much.) No comparison lagman wise though.

      Cafe Kashkar
      1141 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

      Joe's of Avenue U
      287 Avenue U, Brooklyn, NY 11223

      168-41 Hillside Ave, Queens, NY 11432

      Festac Grill
      263 Hendrix St, Brooklyn, NY 11207

      Mumbai Xpress
      256-05 Hillside Ave, Queens, NY 11004

      2300 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10458

      Henan Feng Wei
      136-31 41st Ave, Queens, NY 11355

      Xi'an Famous Foods
      41-28 Main St, Queens, NY 11355

      1. re: JFores

        JFores, you are such an amazing resource! I went and checked out the menu at 1001 Nights and now think I might have to go for dinner tomorrow night.

        1. re: missmasala

          Their menu is really fantastic and I've been wanting to organized a Chowdown there for a while. They have loads of dishes that are unprecedented in NYC Uzbek places before you even get to the banquet menu on the back.

          1. re: JFores

            probably going there tonight with some russian-speaking friends. I'll report back.

            1. re: missmasala

              well apparently on the weekends you have to book 4 days in advance. ended up at kebeer instead. decent, not great. kebabs and plov were good, salads indifferent. nice service, tho. and great beer.

              1. re: missmasala

                That's basically how I feel about Kebeer. Really great staff, good plov and very good beer. Very good lagman too, btw, but some stuff can be really mediocre there.

                1003 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

                1. re: JFores

                  a friend had the lagman, but i stole a small spoonful. nice broth, but the noodles were overcooked. best lagman i've had was a while ago at Arzu, at least I think that was the name of the place. (the one in the shopping center on queens blvd. not even sure it's still there.)

                  really wanted to try cafe at your mother-in-law, but since there were 8 of us, we were hesitant to go with calling first, and when we called no one answered the phone.

                  1. re: missmasala

                    It's still there and they do have good lagman. Also, your mother in law was shuttered recently. I think I saw a sign saying they'd be closed for renovation between certain dates when I last ate there... They have another on 86th St though, but I don't know where.

                    I want another Uighur restaurant...

            1. re: JFores

              No biggie, but Mumbai Xpress is more Marathi than Gujarati, though they do have some great Gujarati stuff too. The owners are Gujarati Jains who grew up in Mumbai and Pune in Maharashtra.

              Mumbai Xpress
              256-05 Hillside Ave, Queens, NY 11004

              1. re: Jackaroo

                Are you serious? I have been looking for a marathi restaurant in nyc for years. That is v exciting news. I just assumed the food was Gujarati. Do you know if they specifically make any marathi dishes? I can't find a menu online.

                1. re: missmasala

                  I don't know my Marathi, but I did pick up a menu:

                  1. re: DaveCook

                    Thanks, Dave.

                    Looking at it, it looks like it's what I would call Mumbai snack foods (no surprise, as this is what the restaurant claims it serves) Didn't see any specifically marathi dishes on it, but maybe the spicing leans more marathi than gujarati--like maybe they use some goda masala. (tho I would doubt it, if the owners are gujarati)

                    Jackaroo, did you speak to the owners? were they the ones who claimed their food was more marathi?

                    I guess I'll have to head out to floral park over the holidays and find out.

                    1. re: missmasala

                      PS. does anyone know if there's good indian grocery shopping (ie. patel bros/subzi mandi) out in floral park?

                      1. re: missmasala

                        totally. hillside avenue, between 250-something street and 240-something street, you've got Patel Bros., Subzi Mandi and maybe a couple one or two more. There is a halal market at little neck but it's really small; the subzi mandi is kind of dank. but yes, if you make it out there for food, you can definitely do some shopping before and after. Patel Bros. will be your most comprehensive bet.

                        1. re: missmasala

                          There's a lot of good stuff out there in many regards. Multiple chaat places, Mumbai Xpress and good markets. The Indian population is arguably bigger than any similar population around Jackson Heights (and it's a hell of a lot more actually Indian as opposed to Bangladeshi.) Lots of Gujjus, Punjabis and Keralans. There are also a couple of Keralan restaurants in the area which are quite respectable (5 Star Thattukada, Kerala Village I think...) I like the place I go to in London a hell of a lot more, but it's good for NYC.

                          My gripe with Mumbai Xpress, however, is that they CONSTANTLY mess up my bill ONLY when the male owner is doing it. I'm treated like a son and then I have bill mess ups literally 1/3 of the time I go there. Also, they've raised their prices something like 3 times in the last year. Their food is very good and they have the best Gujju dishes in NYC, but they've been annoying me for a while.

                          Mumbai Xpress has basically no even vaguely Marathi dishes btw. You could ask, but the additions to the menu have all been Gujju.

                          On the other hand I adore Usha down the street and I've been eating there constantly. Their steam table lunch deals are good and a lot more reasonably priced. Also, their mitthai is probably the best in NYC.

                          Mumbai Xpress
                          256-05 Hillside Ave, Queens, NY 11004

                          1. re: missmasala

                            missmasala, I forgot, there is also an Apna Bazaar that opened recently, it's at Hillside and 260th. This is the same place that is by 37th ave and 73rd st in Jackson Heights so basically, Floral Park has totally replicated the triumvirate of big indian markets in Jackson Heights. They just need a Haat Bazaar out there!

                            Haat Bazaar
                            37-11 73rd St, Queens, NY 11372

                            1. re: bigjeff

                              Are these markets as big as the ones in JH, or smaller, like the ones in flushing? The flushing branch of Patel Bros is a little too small for me to do a major shop and just wondering if i head out to floral park if i'll be able to do a major shop out there.

              2. Hi Chartrand,

                I LOVED Chicago the one time I went there 20 years ago but I don't know it all that well. I know you have Polish and Italian. Could you tell us what other ethnic foods you DO have?


                Glendale is hungry...

                2 Replies
                1. re: Glendale is hungry

                  All the standards (Chinese, Thai, Italian, etc)...Korean, Spanish, German, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Kyrygz, Nigerian, Senegalese, Ethiopian, a few others.

                  Just looking for some new dining experiences. Am open to repeating a type of cuising if a place is highly recommended.

                  1. re: Chartrand

                    Hi Chartrand,

                    I haven't been to either of the following two places myself but they seem to be garnering a fair amount of attention and I'm not sure if you would have them in Chicago:

                    Mile End - Montreal-style smoked meats and, I think, bagels:

                    M. Wells Diner - Diner food with a Quebecois twist:

                    There's also an amazing (seriously, I've been here a number of times and I'm no vegan) raw food restaurant (Organic Village) out in Glendale but, it's not convenient to the subway. Here's a thread in case your curiosity gets the better of you and you suddenly want to inadvertently learn more about the NYC bus system:

                    Good luck wherever you go!


                    Glendale is hungry...

                    Mile End
                    97 Hoyt St, Brooklyn, NY 11217

                    M. Wells Diner
                    21-17 49th Ave, Queens, NY 11101

                2. How about Georgian food in Gravesend? Unbelievably good breads, khachapouri & kebabs. Of the two places I've been to, Pirosmani has the better breads (like really outstandingly good) than Tbilisi, which had outstanding kebabs, potatoes and badrijani (eggplant filled with walnut paste).


                  On the other hand, you could always go to Flushing and roam through the Golden Shopping Mall, which is a pretty hard trip to beat.

                  Just posted on JRS&A Jerk Center in Bed Stuy for really good West Indian food & jerk chicken in particular.


                  Plus there's Mexican, Indian, Nepalese...

                  Golden Shopping Mall
                  41-28 Main St, Queens, NY 11355

                  2222 Avenue U, Brooklyn, NY 11229

                  1. You should probably check out Dave Cook's blog for some more ideas.


                    1. You can't get more unique then the Shandong Cuisine found at M&T. Shandong is one of the four original Chinese cuisines and I think M&T is the first Qingdao restaurant in the USA:


                      SN New Restaurant
                      44-09 Kissena Blvd, Queens, NY 11355

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: scoopG

                        M&T is a treasure.

                        SN New Restaurant
                        44-09 Kissena Blvd, Queens, NY 11355

                      2. I have never been to Chicago but..........
                        1. Argentina. At the corner of Corona Ave and Junction blvd are three small joints, I usually do La Esquina Criolla. Cheap, tasty steak, in large portions cooked on the open grill in the window. Empanada's are excellent, as is the veal roll. Some interesting items on the menu and of course the parrillada, mixed meat on its own grill.There is also Argie pizza that will remind you of Chicago. Skip the dessert and head next door to the Rio de LaPlata bakery for dulce de leche in a million ways with an espresso. I know, not as exotic as the food of some unknown asian province cooking animal parts that would otherwise send you running the other way, but different and fun.
                        2. Singh's Roti Shop and Bar in Ozone Park on Liberty ave about one mile west, off the Liberty Ave exit of the Van Wyck on the way to Kennedy. Awesome West Indian Trini food. The roti are great with just about any filling, I love the chicken curry. If you have not had "doubles" you are missing out on something special. Find out what a "buss up shot" is. West Indian produced Coke with sugar is a nice choice of beverage. Cheap, fast and tasty. If you have to go by train there are are number of other Trini restaurants close to the train that is on the western end of the area. Very interesting area to walk around. There is a West Indian Chinese place in that area that I have wanted to get to forever, who can say no to jerk chicken lo mein?
                        3. New Kerala Kitchen in Floral Park Queens. No subway, but a good choice if you have a car. Keralan food is said to be hard to find and this place is one of the few that serves the cuisine. The buffet is a nice and inexpensive way to try some things you have probably never seen or heard of with enough standbys that you won't be dissapointed.

                        New Kerala Kitchen
                        267-05 Hillside Ave, Queens, NY 11004

                        Sonny's Roti Shop
                        118-06 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

                        La Esquina Criolla
                        94-67 Corona Ave, Queens, NY 11373

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: stuartlafonda

                          Also have not been to Chicago but these may be worth a try:
                          Guyanese food out in Ozone Park (Kaieteur, Singh's, Little Guyana Bake Shop)
                          Surinamese food in Ozone Park (Warung Kario)
                          Liberian in Jamaica (Maima)

                          Eating in Translation is a good resource as mentioned above and I would also recommend this one:

                          Happy Eating!

                          Singh's Roti Shop
                          131-18 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

                          Little Guyana Bake Shop
                          116-04 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

                          Warung Kario
                          128-12 Liberty Ave, Queens, NY 11419

                          106-47 Guy R Brewer Blvd, Queens, NY 11433

                          87-12 Lefferts Blvd, Queens, NY 11418

                        2. great suggestions here. there's also Kebab Cafe for Eygptian food and Zenon Taverna for Cypriot food both in Astoria. Woodside and Jackson heights also has amazing thai, indian, fillipino, and latin food.

                          34-10 31st Ave, Queens, NY 11106

                          1. Can you find pljeskavica (Bosnia's answer to the hamburger) in Chicago? If not, dress warm, hunker down under the Forest Avenue M train, and grab one at Bosna Express - one of the crowned jewels of Queens. While you're there, get a cevapi or two.

                            Bosna Express
                            7-91 Fairview Ave, Queens, NY 11385

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Polecat

                              2nd this. Bosna Express is delicious.

                              Bosna Express
                              31-29 12th St, Queens, NY 11102

                              1. re: Polecat

                                Wow! I haven't been to this place in years! Good reminder. I do suspect they're quite easy to find in Chicago though. Huge former Yugoslav population there.

                              2. Flatbush from Parkside ave south has many Caribbean places. I like Scoops vegetarian 'Ital' type cuisine, it only has a counter, no tables. Anyway you can walk down Flatbush there are food stores every block for miles.

                                13th ave brooklyn and Coney Island Ave and ave J have many Jewish places, most are delies making sampling easy. Difara pizza is on J near CIA and the subway, which is elevated at that point.

                                See Russian food for Brighton beach suggestions.

                                If you walk down Coney Island Ave from I guess Caton ave on south there are many Pakistani places.

                                Almost as a joke I will suggest Bonnie's Grill as 'Upstate New York" food.

                                1. I might be a little bit late for this, but here are a few favorites:

                                  - Bajan/Barbadian food @ Cocks Restaurant in Crown Heights (try the leadpipe pastry and cou-cou with flying fish)
                                  - Jamaican @ The Islands on Washington Ave. near the Brooklyn Museum
                                  - Guinean @ Fatima in Prospect Heights (I love the baked fish with acheke)
                                  - Cote d'Ivoirean @ Abidjan in Bushwick (the okra is great if you're into that sort of thing)

                                  A Grenadian friend once told me that you can get a good Grenadian oil-down at a place called Pop's in Brooklyn (wow, that sounded completely dirty... no really, oil-down is a type of food), but I have no idea if the restaurant still exists. Anybody heard of it? Somewhere in Crown Heights, I think...

                                  The Islands
                                  803 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238

                                  806 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: UnitedNationsOfFood

                                    Also a great Paraguayan restaurant in Sunnyside

                                    I Love Py,
                                    43-16 Greenpoint Avenue, Queens, NY 11377

                                    I Love Py
                                    43-16 Greenpoint Ave, Queens, NY 11104