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Buddhist Veg Restaurants in Flushing

Jim Leff May 20, 2011 09:01 AM

Happy Buddha (135-37 37 Avenue) and Buddha Bodai (4296 Main St) are the hoary old faves.

Any prefs between the two? Or new contenders to recommend?

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Happy Buddha
135-37 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11354

Buddha Bodai
42-96 Main St, Queens, NY 11355

  1. Joe MacBu May 20, 2011 01:27 PM

    I've only been to Buddha Bodai. I didn't get why people still like that place. Everything we ordered (about 6 dishes) tasted like 80s American-Chinese food. And not very fresh at that. It was one of the saddest meals I had last year.

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    Buddha Bodai
    42-96 Main St, Queens, NY 11355

    3 Replies
    1. re: Joe MacBu
      m
      mrsdebdav May 22, 2011 05:35 PM

      Agree with Joe. I have not had the op to go to Happy, but I sincerely doubt I would go back to Bodai. Was there for the second time recently. Service was somewhat hostile (I'm thick skinned, and language and cultural barriers might have been in play, but it's not exactly welcoming). The advantage to Bodai is, if you get there early enough, there's parking right in front of the resto. Obviates the parking nightmare which is Flushing.
      I used to live in Flushing and still go back every once in a while to get frozen veg shrimp, altho not the "good ones" as I call them: are no longer made.
      I'm going to make a veg shrimp run in the near future and hit Happy. Will report back.
      Jim, you are of course a legend in the food posting world, and your interest in veg Chinese lifts my spirits.

      1. re: mrsdebdav
        PlomeekSoup May 23, 2011 12:20 PM

        Of the two, Happy Buddha is friendlier and qualitatively better, though I have not yet been to Bodai for dim sum, which I have been told is a worthwhile venture if you are vegetarian and looking for something beyond what Vegetarian Dim Sum House offers in Manhattan (though Happy Buddha also does dim sum).

        Happy Buddha is closer to the 7 train and have a free parking garage, with an entrance just to the right of the restaurant, so getting there also tends to be easier than getting to Bodai, depending on your perspective.

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        Happy Buddha
        135-37 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11354

        1. re: PlomeekSoup
          m
          mrsdebdav May 25, 2011 12:28 PM

          Free parking? Wow! Is the parking lot marked? Any signs/landmarks/etc so I don't miss it? I will def have to get down there ASAP.
          Thanks!

    2. Jim Leff May 23, 2011 12:28 PM

      I tried Happy Buddha for first time in years. Wow. Utter change. Used to be a hole in the wall with an amazing menu of rare authentic Chinese buddhist temple cooking (classic mock-meat items, originally devised to please meat-loving visitors to veg-only temple cafeterias).

      Now its' a sleek gringo-friendly place ala Souen serving up generic pan-Asian veg. Vegetarian General Tso's Chicken, etc.. They still make my favorite thing from back then - bamboo garden soup with bamboo pith, but it's been de-soled (too salty, too thin, little subtlety).

      I guess this had to happen. Local Chinese want meat, not veg, so this place aways served a more touristic crowd. And that crowd naturally was mostly vegetarians and kosher diners who weren't necessarily interested in this unique cuisine....they just wanted something vaguely Asian that they could eat. So management simply changed to accommodate their clientele.

      Ah, well...

      -----
      Happy Buddha
      135-37 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11354

      15 Replies
      1. re: Jim Leff
        CitySpoonful May 25, 2011 07:50 AM

        Is there nowhere in the city where authentic food, influenced by the Buddhist tradition of vegetarianism, can be found? Friends coming back from China tell of amazing vegetarian meals enjoyed there -- but I struggle to find even passable vegetarian Chinese options here in NYC. (Head shaking in disappointment....)

        1. re: CitySpoonful
          Jim Leff May 25, 2011 08:39 AM

          It's likely out there. So the thing is to find it. If you wait for food writers and "conventional wisdom" to hand it to you, well....that's a slow and highly incomplete process. There is vast unexplored (or under-explored) treasure out there. We've gotta hit the streets and suss them out.

          1. re: Jim Leff
            CitySpoonful May 25, 2011 11:53 AM

            Agreed!! Perhaps the thing to do is locate buddhist temples around the City and check the surrounding 'hoods. Where there are temples, churches, etc., great food is often nearby....

            1. re: CitySpoonful
              j
              JFores May 25, 2011 12:06 PM

              It's going to be in Flushing if it's anywhere, tbh. The Taiwanese temple snacks vendor at the old Roosevelt Avenue mall served a number of dishes which fell under this category, though the place was not full veg (and the menu was meat heavy.) If there isn't something now then it'll pop up with time. Now if I could only get my hands on some of those Guantanamo Uighurs and set them up with a stall in Flushing....

              1. re: JFores
                CitySpoonful May 25, 2011 12:11 PM

                From U.S. Federal court...to a food court in Flushing? :)

                What about the Jersey suburbs? There is some pretty miraculous food out there...

                1. re: CitySpoonful
                  j
                  JFores May 25, 2011 01:10 PM

                  I don't drive so I've never gotten to hit up Jersey the way I'd want to (basically a one day car based Newark, Jersey City and suburbs crawl lasting all day and night.)

                  Not to get off topic, but most of the US' Uighurs live in the Washington DC metro area, but no one seems to have opened a restaurant. There used to be an exceptional (and extremely cheap) Uighur stall at the Roosevelt Food Court run by a nice man from Ghulja, but it closed even before the mall was shuttered.

                  1. re: JFores
                    CitySpoonful May 25, 2011 06:07 PM

                    Interesting that no restaurants have sprung up in DC -- not even street vendors, like the tamale ladies?

                    1. re: CitySpoonful
                      c
                      comestible May 25, 2011 10:21 PM

                      Well, this vegetarian, for one, would be happy to learn of some good places. Chinese food was always the vegetarian take-out fall-back, in that you could at least get SOMETHING vegetarian. But I've come to realize, from perusing good recipes and menus, and reading CH, that traditional Chinese food is far from vegetarian. And I have to admit it sounds really good.

                      So I'd like to help in the hunt for good vegetarian places.

                      1. re: comestible
                        CitySpoonful May 26, 2011 10:47 AM

                        Good luck, all around. We'll need it!

                        1. re: comestible
                          j
                          JFores May 26, 2011 06:08 PM

                          What's your definition of vegetarian? Given the fact that woks aren't cleaned with soap that shuts down a lot of the more hardline extremist veggies I know. If you're OK with that, then you can eat very well in most of Flushing. Just go to Chengdu Heaven and get the vegetarian mapodofu with rice.

                          1. re: JFores
                            m
                            mrsdebdav May 26, 2011 08:39 PM

                            JFores, totally agree. Woks and sauces in non veg restos offer no assurance that the food served is vegetarian. As far as researching options, please believe me when I say I have been on top of the veg/Asian/ vegan issue for many years (('ll be 60 in exactly 28 minutes).and for numerous cities
                            There are a number of websites which list veg/vegan restos (Happy Cow, VegDining, VegGuide, not to mention good ol' Google). I can't list all the places I know about, but it takes very little effort to find pure veg options anywhere they exist . Are they good? Who knows? Yelp is limited because, let's face it, we're a small portion of the consuming public. But let's keep the thread going and provide info (and opinions if possible).
                            Gobo, Vegetarian Paradise 2, Red Bamboo are all NYC places I know well. Good sometimes, not great always. Anyone else?

                            1. re: mrsdebdav
                              c
                              comestible May 27, 2011 12:51 PM

                              I'm not going to be so hard-line as to refuse vegetarian food cooked in a wok that previously held meat. Life's too short. As for Chengdu Heaven, yes, I've done that! May have been a different dish but yummy and spicy.

                              There's a place in Manhattan Chinatown that made a big point of their mock duck/mock chicken dishes. I think it was right on lower Bowery where the street is very wide or opens onto a square. I'll try to find it again.

                              Agree with mrsdebdav, those online websites can be good guides to places.

                              1. re: comestible
                                Jim Leff May 28, 2011 09:37 AM

                                Just a polite friendly request:

                                The lingering-meat-in-the-wok issue is an interesting (and applicable) one, but it's off-topic here on the Outer Boros board. Please consider continuing that discussion on "Not About Food" (which I regret having named that way, btw!), and posting a "heads up" here so people know to go there to follow that isssue.

                                That way, we can hopefully use this thread purely to pool efforts to find Buddhist veg cuisine....I'm working on it.....

                                1. re: comestible
                                  CitySpoonful May 31, 2011 12:18 PM

                                  Agreed, one cannot be a hardline vegetarian and eat well in most restaurants. I'm even accustomed to turning a blind eye to fish sauce, shrimp paste and other difficult to detect ingredients derived from animals. (Don't hate me, pure vegetarians, I know I'm an embarrassment to the cause but I can't help myself when good food is to be had!)

                                  Mrsdebdav's suggestions are helpful -- there are many great veg. restaurants in NYC. But I was hoping to find recs for places that are less Americanized and that offer authentic Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, etc. non-meat dishes to Asian buddhists/vegetarians, rather than Americans.

                                  As we've all noted, this culinary tradition is strong in Asia and if it's made the leap to the Asian buddhist community in NYC, I would be very curious to check it out.

            2. re: Jim Leff
              PlomeekSoup May 28, 2011 11:46 AM

              Responding to JFores, re: Happy Buddha:

              Most times I'm in there, it's packed with Asian clientele. The owners are a married couple and the wife once gave me a tour of the building, which includes a Buddhist temple. Since I have only been there in the last couple of years, I have no past visits to compare the quality to, but I agree with other posters that it would be nice to find more Buddhist vegetarian food in NYC.

              And to mrsdebdav, re: parking at Happy Buddha:

              I don't remember it being marked clearly, but it is directly to the right of the restaurant, a steep entrance to a below-street-level parking area.

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