“If all else fails, we’ll just go tear it up in Queens like we always have…” – Vince (fictional character), Entourage
Every time I mention one of these places (to guys) the response seems to be, “My girlfriend’s been trying to get me there…” or “My wife has been wanting to try that place.” The secret is out, you don’t need to travel the world to sample try all the food, you just need to ride out to Queens. Now from a motorcycle perspective there’s not much to enjoy riding in Queens. There’s lots of traffic (which you can get past by lane splitting) and loads of traffic lights. You might even catch a little of the local biker culture: squids riding up on one wheel with their feet in front of the handlebars…or the leather and tattoo biker guys having a BBQ at the LIC Harley dealership. So why would I want to go there? Freedom. Riding’s about the freedom the move about the city, and two wheels is the fastest way to get around. Scooters are fine in Manhattan, but leave your Vespa at home, they’ll run you over in Queens.
To get to Queens you take the 59th Street Bridge… It’s easier to take the lower level when you’re heading to Queens, but on the way back you MUST take the Upper Level – the view going back into Manhattan by itself is worth the ride out. But pay attention, some of the turns getting to the upper level are pretty tight.
Once you get to Queens, your first stop is Long Island City (LIC)… It’s where the Pepsi sign stands on the East River, and Silver Cup Studios (famous for filming Sex and the City, or the end fight scene of Highlander, depending on your taste…) LIC was the Detroit before Detroit…the industrial center of the US before highways meant you could build factories in the mid-west. If you want to stage a mob hit-scene, or film a gritty urban drama (e.g., the Black Donnelly’s – or some scenes from Spider Man, Raising Helen, etc…), this is the place to be. So here are some hip stops on the (other) island…
This place became well known when MOMA opened up a temporary gallery down the street. The menu is small, the food is cheap, and service is good (the waiters won’t come to you unless you call them, but when you call they get to you pretty quick). Their main dish is a spicy tofu casserole Korean dish called “Soon Dubu.” They also serve Pho and Kalbi (Korean shortribs with rice). For some reason I see a lot of bikers stop there… It could be because it’s so close to Manhattan, with enough decent parking… There’s Muni-Parking for cars on Queens Boulevard and a couple of spots that are too small for cars (there’s one across from Burger King on 41st) where motorcycles can park for free. As always, you can park between cars if there’s enough space – but I wouldn’t recommend hopping up on the sidewalk there unless you go a couple of blocks north on a side street.
The area around Natural Tofu is called “Sunnyside” – it has some good Romanian and Turkish food as well as great Irish pubs, a $4 movie theater, and too many other things to mention here…
If a hamburger is more your speed you can follow the 7-train a little further and try “the best hamburger in NY.” You can get some Shepherd’s Pie and a pint while you’re at it… Donovans is a good ole Irish Pub you can take your family to – it’s not Corporate ala Applebees, this is the real thing. Last I recall it’s cash only.
If you want the best French food in the city, you’ll probably stick to Manhattan. But if you want the best Thai food in the city, you need to come out to Queens… Come any day of the week for authentic Thai – any day except Wednesday (when they’re closed). As for parking, I usually park on the side walk near a meter…so far the meter maids have left me alone.
Jackson Diner (Indian Cuisine), 37-47 74th St., Jackson Heights – WEBSITE, REVIEW, MAP
If you welcome globalization for its good curry, the last stop on our Queens eating tour (for now, there’s too much on the island to cover!) is in Jackson Heights. Jackson Diner used to be a neighborhood diner until an Indian cook bought the place and started making authentic dishes…they never changed the name. They used to make the best authentic Indian food in the city! Now that mantle has passed on, but what Jackson Diner still does well is good Indian food to suit a variety of pallets. Indians and non-Indians both make up a large portion of its clientèle’s. Many come for the lunch buffet… Once again, cash only.
Motorcycle parking can be tricky – the metered spots are pretty close together. If you don’t find something right out front, you can find a little safer parking in the residential area around 35th Ave.