Authentic home and kitchen store. The best service around. The authority on home and kitchen store. It all comes back to Home

Search This Blog



Subscribe By Email

A Midnight Street Food Tour of Queens with Jeff Orlick

SlideshowA Midnight Street Food Tour of Queens with Jeff Orlick:
From Serious Eats: New York






VIEW SLIDESHOW: A Midnight Street Food Tour of Queens with Jeff Orlick



[Photographs: Max Falkowitz]

The 3+ mile stretch of Roosevelt Avenue in Queens between Sunnyside and Flushing is home to some of the best food you can eat in New York, plenty of it right there on the street. $10 will buy you a meal (or two) (or three) from street vendors hailing from, well, everywhere. There are over 130 languages spoken in Queens, and each of those language
groups—many along this street—cooks up something utterly wonderful.

At night, Roosevelt Avenue transforms. Daytime businesses shutter and bars pump their music into the streets. Hidden, often unexpected features of urban life become visible. Jackson Heights, for example—a bustling neighborhood of Indian, Hispanic, and Asian family life—emerges as the gay nightlife center for the entire borough. And all along the trundling 7 train, a good percentage of the city's workforce returns home from late nights of work—and they come hungry. You want to eat here.

You may need a guide to get the most out of your food crawl under the 7 train; English comes and goes in Queens, and there are plenty of mediocre food options among the exceptional. But that's where Jeff Orlick comes in.
199013-midnight-queens-food-crawl-18.jpg

Jeff Orlick at the Tia Julia truck, which sells tortas and some serious tacos.

Jeff offers by-appointment tours of Roosevelt Avenue's street food scene. For less than what I'd pay for lunch at some overpriced midtown spots, Jeff showed a small group and me some of the best street food that Queens has to offer in a gut-busting nine-stop tour that included food from Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and elsewhere. He starts his tours where even more intrepid Queens adventurers end, around 90th Street in Elmhurst, and takes his guests out to around 111th Street in Corona.

I say guests deliberately. Jeff is proud to call Jackson Heights his home, and he works hard to make his tour groups realize that this is food embedded in and inseparable from the community around it. Walking the streets with Jeff feels more like visiting a friend in a foreign country than checking out a new spot for some cheap eats. "Almost all of them live in the neighborhood," he explains. "These vendors don't have twitter accounts, they don't look for places of interest for tourists. It's interesting because most residents don't know the breadth of vendors in the area, or possibly don't care."

199013-midnight-queens-food-crawl-2.jpg

A carnitas taco from Tortas Neza, which is in the running for the best carnitas in New York.

That breadth is pretty astounding. A small sample of what you can expect on these tours: tacos, gorditas, mammoth tortas, tripe stews, esquites, tamales straight from the steamer, coconut drinks, and possibly the best carnitas in New York. Hungry yet?

Blame it on the lateness of the hour (tours typically run from around 9 PM to 1 AM), the daze of tacos, salsas, and freshly charred corn, or the shear epicurean pleasure of eating so damn much good food at once, but Jeff's tours will put some grand thoughts in your head. About halfway (and 8 kinds of tacos) through, it hit me that this amazing stretch of Roosevelt Avenue isn't just a road with some food trucks. In a way, it's the city's largest and most vibrant night market: a space as social as it is commercial and culinary. Sure, this is good, cheap street food. But it's also a network of connections for the community. Locals gather under the glow of sodium lamps to eat, chat, and catch up with the vendors they know intimately well.

199013-midnight-queens-food-crawl-4.jpg

A tamale lady's police fines. Vendors collect these tickets—often handed out completely arbitrarily—from police.

In between bites of barbacoa and sips of tamarind juice, Jeff talked about the daily battles these vendors fight to keep their businesses going. Getting permits to legally sell food is hard enough, so much so that many risk the fines and sell without one. But even legal vendors have to deal with police harassment, which is often totally arbitrary. At least these neighborhoods have the benefit of loyal community followings, but there's nothing like watching an unpermitted tamale lady take out her wad of police tickets to make you realize what these vendors go through to sell good food at ridiculously low margins.

Though Jeff wants us to feel respect and admiration, not pity. "This is real food, in the For us, By us mentality. This is a way someone can make money for themselves without having to join a system or a corporation. Many of these people feel rejected by something, and this is their way of being independent."

199013-midnight-queens-food-crawl-11.jpg

It's easy for people active in the New York food scene to get jaded with the swarm of Korean taco trucks, jingoistic concept restaurants, and "artisan" everything all around us. A walk around this part of Queens is the perfect antidote to that. New York's greatest strength is its mindboggling diversity and its endlessly plucky human capital. At the very least, a food crawl through one of the city's most diverse stretches is a delicious way to spend an evening. But it's also an opportunity: to discover a side of the city wholly unknown to many of us, and to recharge the faith that New York delights and surprises you most when you least expect it.

Jeff's tours are offered mostly by appointment, usually Wednesday through Friday starting around 9 PM (there are also sometimes tours during the day starting at noon). For more details and up to date information, check out the tours page of Jeff's website and blog, Jeffrey Tastes.

Check out the slideshow to see all the bites from the tour »

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the editor of Serious Eats: New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.













DYD HERO ME

Labels

Almond Apple Apricots Arancini Asian Asparagus beans Avocado Baked bakery Balls Banana Bar barbecue Bars Basket Bean Bed Bedroom Beef Beef Stock Belgian Bell Pepper Berry Biscuits Bites Black Friday Blackberry Blancmange Blueberry Boiled Bolognese Bowl Box Cake Braid Brandy Bread breakfast Broccoli Brownies Bruschetta Brussels sprouts Bunny Buns Burrito Butter Buttermilk Cake Cake Mix Candy Caramel Carbonara Carrot Casserole Cheddar Cheese Cheese Pastry Cheese Snack Cheeseburger Cheesecake Cherry Cherry Tomatoes Chia chicken Chicken Legs Chicken Stock Chips Chocolate Chocolate Chip Chocolate Dipped Christmas Cinnamon clay flowers cocktail Coconut Coffee Collection 2018 Cookies Corn Cottage cheese Cracker Cracker Snacks Crackers Crackling Cranberry Cream Cream Cheese Creme Brulee Crisp Crispy Croutons Crunchy Crust Cucumber Cupcake Custard Dark Chocolate desert Dinner Dinnerware Dip Ditalini Dough drinks Easter Egg Egg Noodles Egg-battered Eggplant Energy Espresso Machine Farfalle Fashion Fettuccine Fillet fish food Frappe French French Sandwich Frittata Frosting Fruit fruits Fudge Funchoza Furniture Galettes Ginger Gingerbread Glaze Gluten Goat Cheese Gourmet Granola Granola Bars Grapes Green Peas Greens Grilled Chicken Ham Healthy Home Home and Kitchen Store Honey Horseradish horseradish cream Hot Dog Ice Iced Italian jam Kitchen lasagna Latte Laundry Lachine Lemon Lime Living room Maple Marshmallow Marzipan Mascarpone Mashed Potato Meat Meatballs Microwave Mint Molten Lava Mousse Mozzarella Muffins Mug Mushroom Mustard Napa Cabbage Nice 'n' Soft Sugar Cookies No-bake No-Cook Noodles Nuggets Nut Nutella Oat Conundrum Oatmeal Oats Olive Omelet Onion Orange Oreo Pan-fried apple Pancakes Panforte Panini Parmesan Pasta Pastry Cups Patties Peach Peanut Pear Penne Peppermint Peppermint Stick Cookies Pepperoni Pesto Pie Pineapple Pistachio Pistachio Nuts Pita Pita Bread Pita Chips pizza Popcorn Popsicles pork Potato Profiteroles Prosciutto Pudding Puff Pastry Pumpkin Quesadilla Raisins Raspberries Recipe Red Wine Refrigerators rice Ricotta Rigate Rigatoni Risotto Roast Roast Potato Roasted Rocky Roll Cookies Roll ups Rolls Rosemary Sage sallad Salmon Salted Caramel Saltimbocca sandwich Sauce Sausages Scones Seafood Seed Shrimp Simnel Skewers Slush Smoothie snacks Snickerdoodles Snowballs Soba Sorbet Souffle soup Sour Spaghetti Spicy Spinach Spring Onion Squash st Steel-Cut Sticks Strawberries Stuffing Tart tea coffe Terrine thai Thumbprints Tiramisu Toast Tomato-wine Tomatoes Topping Tortilla Tortilla Chips Trifle Tropical Trout Tuna Turkey Vacuum Cleaner vegan Vegetable Veggie Waffle Walnut Watermelon Wrap Yogurt Yule log Zucchini

Most Popular Items on Sale

My Blog List

My Blog List