Photo: Grub Street
A running list of everwhere I’ve been, week 31: 301. Bar Meridian 302. Pilot 303. Moon Bar 304. Young and Rich 305. HaSalon 306. Alef 307. Mr. Fong’s 308. Clandestino 309. Up Stairs 310. The Coop 311. Maxi’s Noodle 312. Beard Papa’s 313. Gong Cha 314. Food Court at New World Mall
For two weeks at the end of each summer, midday 7 trains that are usually only partially filled start to haul a flux of people dressed in fresh polos and visors, all headed to spend a few hours watching tennis at the U.S. Open.
I’m not sure what they’re serving at the tennis center’s dining facilities this year, but I don’t associate the sport with exciting food. And that’s totally fine because Arthur Ashe Stadium is a short walk and a train stop away from one of the inarguable best neighborhoods for food in all of New York City: Flushing, Queens.
Once you ascend the subway stairs, you’ll have your pick of bakeries, boba, juice, and tea shops right at the intersection of Roosevelt and Main Streets. My preferred way to start the day is savory, so soup for breakfast is basically a treat, particularly at Maxi’s Noodle. The small restaurant opens at 10:30 every morning — convenient since early matches start around noon — but arriving early doesn’t mean you’ll escape the crowds, as I found out on a drizzly Monday morning when groups of three and four had to wait for a few minutes before being accommodated at a table inside.
Photo: Tammie Teclemariam
“Do you mind if I sit here?” asked a woman while I was deep in my bowl of soup with noodles, wontons, and dumplings. I moved my bag out of the way for her to cram into the corner chair at the two-top. “That looks good,” she said, appraising my dish, “I came here from Long Island City — it’s my first time.” She ended up asking the server for the same thing I had, and I think she liked it as much as I did.
What to do after a day’s matches, then? The first thing I like to do when I get to Flushing, or any Chinatown really, is start off with a massage, and perhaps it’s due to the lower concentration of tourists, but the tui na in Flushing goes harder than anything I’ve had in Manhattan. I can personally vouch for the exquisite services at Coco Spa and Qing Lotus, where I saw several groups of friends reclined side by side in armchairs receiving foot reflexology.
If having your meridians stimulated doesn’t sound like your idea of an aperitif, you can always get a cocktail instead. I checked out the rooftop bar at the One Boutique Hotel, though it’s definitely not a must-visit. The drinks were strong and cheap, but I found the views a little lackluster; the train ride there offers better sightseeing.
Flushing is not a major bar scene, but most people were drinking something fancy at the Coop, which came recommended by one of the hotel bartenders. Set on the second floor of an open dining complex on Prince Street, you might miss it for the bright and busy restaurants on the first floor. Honestly, everything on this block looks like a solid option, and based on the lines of people waiting for tables on a Sunday night, it seems as though there are no wrong decisions to be made.
That’s “coop” like chicken, not the Park Slope grocer.
Photo: Tammie Teclemariam
That said, the Coop’s list of whiskey, soju, beer, and cocktails is one of the best I’ve seen in the area, and its late hours and drink specials make this Korean restaurant a popular neighborhood hangout for dates, groups, and families alike, who all seemed to be ordering across the extensive menu of hot pot, fried spam, and noodles. I’m not sure I buy its claim that its Korean fried chicken is the best in New York (will have to do more research and get back to you on that), but it was crisp and juicy, so I had nothing to complain about.
Here’s my main advice: Make the neighborhood a regular part of your dining rotation. I’ve been trekking to Flushing to eat for as long as I’ve lived here, and it would be impossible for me to summarize how many good restaurants there are in a single newsletter. It’s knowledge that must be experienced gradually on your own terms over several visits. Some things, like most of the stands at the New World Mall food court, never seem to change, but when I passed a flashy new restaurant called Young and Rich, just a little past the main path, I could not resist checking it out.
The space is decked out in Kaws, Murakami, and neon, and the clientele consisted of younger groups when I went for dinner on Friday night, but the menu of mostly Hunan specialties didn’t seem to be compromised by the glamour. I would have loved to order a whole fish from the special menu. My server, who when I asked for his name said “call me SpongeBob,” recommended the barramundi of the four varieties in the house special sauce, but since I was alone I opted for the steamed egg with pork and some mapo tofu and promised SpongeBob I’d come back with a group of friends soon.