Only in Queens: Tasting Our Way Through New York’s Most Diverse Borough - May 17, 2019 - Atlas Obscura Trips

Queens, New York

Only in Queens: Tasting Our Way Through New York’s Most Diverse Borough

Manhattan may have name-brand recognition and Brooklyn a certain cache, but Queens is the city’s largest and most diverse borough. It’s a place where the neighborhoods still have a neighborhood feel, filled with small family-run restaurants that have been around for generations; a place where new immigrant communities can still afford to put down roots, bringing their food traditions with them. 

In collaboration with Culinary Backstreets, we’ll take a deep dive into Queens’ rich neighborhood life, including a banquet dinner in the borough’s bustling Chinatown, a behind-the-scenes visit to a Central Asian Jewish bakery, and a stop at a Colombian “fast food” joint for a South American twist on the New York hot dog.


This trip is best for people who are...

  • Excited to experience the rich variety of cuisine found throughout Queens’ international neighborhoods.
  • Ready to explore New York’s most culturally diverse borough on foot, walking 2 to 4 miles per day on city sidewalks, through bustling markets, and up and down subway stairs.
  • Hungry for an experience beyond the typical NYC tour, with tastes, sounds, smells, and sights unique to the city’s culinary capital.

Queens is home to over two million people, half of them born outside the United States, speaking more than 150 different languages. It’s a place where Tagalog and Romanian are regularly spoken on the same block. It’s also home to countless immigrant stories of the most classic kind: a newcomer arrives and sets up shop—or, more frequently, cart—selling the food of his or her homeland as the first step towards making it in America. By the end of our journey, we’ll have had a taste of a New York that’s increasingly harder to find in other parts of the city. 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Family-Style Banquets: Enjoy a full Sichuan banquet in Flushing, joined by a local historian who will bring Queens’ rich history to life. 
  • Hidden Gastronomic Gems: Explore “hidden” restaurants in Jackson Heights serving the neighborhood’s Nepalese Sherpa community. 
  • Bustling Markets: Wander the aisles of the Queens Night Market, where vendors sell one-of-a-kind foods from across the globe. 
  • Insider Access: Get to know some of Queens’ most self-contained communities, eating at casual local eateries and meeting the people who run them. 

YOUR CULINARY EXPERT AND GUIDE

Culinary Backstreets’ lead guide in Queens, Esneider Arelvalo, has over 25 years of experience in the New York City food scene. Most recently he was the co-executive chef at Angelica Kitchen, one of the city’s first vegan restaurants. Originally from Medellín, Colombia, he enjoys introducing visitors to the diverse neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, where he has lived for the past three decades. He performs in a hardcore punk band, is an avid swimmer, cyclist, and runner, and loves to travel.

Itinerary
Day 1
Welcome to Flushing
  • We’ll meet on Main Street in the heart of Flushing, a neighborhood filled with restaurants, food courts, and markets that serve the area’s mostly Chinese and Korean populations. After a quick stroll through the nearby streets, we’ll make our way to a local Sichuan restaurant for a welcome banquet and a chance to get to know each other. A local historian will join us for dinner, providing some background on Queens and its different communities.
  • After dinner, we’ll head to a nearby rooftop lounge for cocktails made with traditionally Chinese and Korean ingredients, capping off the night with a stunning view of Manhattan.
Day 2
Queens’ Transglobal Highway
  • Today is dedicated to exploring some of the most intriguing stretches of Roosevelt Avenue, a 5.8-mile road that might very well be one of the most culturally—and culinarily—diverse commercial thoroughfares in the United States.
  • We’ll begin with a Mexican-style weekend brunch of barbacoa (pit-roasted goat) at a family-run restaurant in the Corona neighborhood. From there, we’ll make our way along Roosevelt Avenue, ducking into markets and stopping by vendors representing Mexico, Ecuador, and Argentina (among others). We’ll also stop by a side-street evangelical church that, on weekends, sells some of Queens’ finest pupusas, made with ingredients brought fresh from El Salvador.
  • We’ll then head into Jackson Heights, a hub for New York’s Indian and Nepalese communities, to taste some local specialties in the neighborhood’s more hidden restaurants.
  • Nearby, we’ll find Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, site of the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs. Take a look at the iconic Unisphere, a remnant of the 1964 Fair, before being treated to a special guided tour of the nearby Queens Museum’s stunning New York City Panorama, a highly detailed miniature recreation of all five boroughs.
  • Afterward, we’ll head to the adjacent parking lot for a visit to the Queens Night Market, a rollicking collection of food vendors from across the borough that runs only during the spring and summer months. Don’t worry—we’ll do plenty of sampling.
  • For those who still have energy, head out for some music and dancing at a local bar in Jackson Heights known for hosting some of Queens’ finest Latin musicians.
Day 3
From the Silk Road to the Caribbean
  • Our last day will be spent exploring two of Queens’ most interesting—and lesser-visited—immigrant neighborhoods: Rego Park and Richmond Hill. Rego Park is sometimes referred to as the “Jewish Silk Road” due to the large number of Bukharan Jews from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan living in the area (an estimated 50,000). Many of them immigrated to Queens after the fall of the Soviet Union and represent one of New York’s most self-contained communities. Our host for the day is a member of the community that grew up here.
  • The day will start in a kosher bakery, run by a mother and two sons who arrived in Queens from Uzbekistan in 1992. Here we’ll get a chance to see how they turn out traditional Central Asian breads like toke and non, and meat pies known as samsas, from their tandoori-like oven. We’ll also visit a kosher Georgian spot that, in order to meet religious dietary restrictions, has a dairy restaurant downstairs and a meat restaurant upstairs. We’ll try some cheesy khachapuri in the basement.
  • Along the way, we’ll also make a stop at a neighborhood museum devoted to the history of the Bukharan Jews, a project that a local man originally started in his home.  
  • From Rego Park, we’ll travel a short distance yet end up a world away, in the Indo-Caribbean neighborhood of Richmond Hill, home to a thriving community of immigrants from Guyana and Trinidad. Our guide to the neighborhood is the host of a local TV show aimed at the Guyanese diaspora. He’ll lead us through his favorite spots, from a bakery specializing in Guyanese bread and pastries to an eatery serving Indian food with a Caribbean twist.
  • While in the neighborhood, we’ll also visit one of the area’s Hindu temples, open only on Sundays.
  • Our final dinner will be in a neighborhood restaurant where the food comes served with a side of West Indian music and dancing.
Day 4
Farewell & Departure
  • Today, depart for home, whether via LaGuardia Airport or the 7 train—or, if you'd like, spend more time exploring Queens. Our guides will be happy to provide additional recommendations.
  • Until the next adventure!
The Fine Print

YOUR ATLAS OBSCURA CULINARY QUEENS ADVENTURE INCLUDES:

  • All meals and transportation during the trip. Travel within Queens will be by foot and public transportation.
  • An experienced local guide to accompany you throughout the trip, as well as special guests throughout.
  • Admission to all proposed activities, locations, and events.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all that Queens has to offer!

NOTE ON ACCOMMODATION

We recommend staying at the Parc Hotel in Flushing, Queens, which will serve as a central location for the tour. When making reservations, members of our group will receive a 15 percent discount (discount code will be provided in your deposit confirmation). Email trips@atlasobscura.com if you’d like assistance with booking. If you choose to stay elsewhere, we strongly recommend staying in Queens. We are happy to suggest neighborhoods for booking alternate accommodations. 

ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE

Our trip begins with a welcome dinner in Flushing on Friday, May 17. We recommend you arrive in New York by 2 p.m. on the 17th, so you can settle into your accommodations and make your way to Flushing to meet our guide and group in time for dinner. Our trip concludes in the evening on Sunday, May 20th.If leaving New York directly after our tour, we recommend departing the following morning, on Monday, May 20. If you'd like to extend your trip, we’re happy to provide suggestions for things to do and see in the city on your own.

 

NOTE ON ITINERARY

Itineraries are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, whose schedules and availabilities may change in the coming months. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, then we will always replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking 2 to 4 miles each day, climbing stairs and remaining on their feet for long periods of time. Keep in mind that Queens is a bustling and crowded place and, though our pace will be relaxed, other New Yorkers like to walk fast!

PAYMENT

The total cost of this trip is $830. You will be charged a non-refundable $500 deposit to hold your space. The final payment of $330 will be due by April 2, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions.

TRAVELERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR:

  • Transportation to and from New York City.
  • 3 nights of accommodations in Queens, NY. (Travelers receive a 15% group discount at the Parc Hotel.)
  • Airport transfers.
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
  • Baggage charges.
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.
  • Applying for a U.S. visa, if applicable.

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