By John Wogan
September 10, 2020
Main Street, Flushing Queens, NY
Credit: Rudi Von Briel/Getty Images

For residents of the neighborhood and New Yorkers in-the-know, Flushing, Queens, is considered the city’s “real” Chinatown. That’s because of its authentically Chinese atmosphere, where, on some blocks, it can feel like you’ve been transported to Taipei or Hong Kong, where street signs and storefront signage is in Chinese, and everyone who passes you by is speaking Mandarin or Cantonese (currently about 41% of Flushing’s population is of Chinese descent). It’s a fun and fascinating experience—especially when it comes to the food scene. 

Taiwanese immigrants began moving to Flushing in the 1970’s, and with it came a proliferation of Chinese eateries—restaurants, bakeries, tea houses, and markets that still exist today. But there are also new, hip watering holes and hangouts, as well, where the younger generation gathers for after-work cocktails. Most of the popular spots radiate out from Main Street, and the main subway line is the 7 train—it takes you right there from Midtown Manhattan. It’s worth the trip for lunch alone, and below are our picks of just a few of the best food options in this incredibly rich culinary neighborhood. 

Joe’s Steam Rice Roll

Amidst a busy market just off the Main Street subway station, Joe’s Steam Rice Roll is an easy-to-miss food stand with a loyal following. As the name implies, the thing to order is a rice roll—a single, large flat noodle stuffed with items like pork, beef, or shrimp and topped with sesame seeds and chili oil. Seating is limited to a few bar stools at the counter, so be prepared to take it away (or eat standing) during busy lunch hours. 

Fang Gourmet Tea House, Flushing, Queens
Credit: Fang Gourmet Tea

Fang Gourmet Tea

Walk down a long hallway in one of Flushing’s ubiquitous mini-malls on Roosevelt Avenue, you’ll discover the family-owned Fang Gourmet Tea, which feels like stumbling on a secret. Inside, a treasure trove of specialty teas is available for tastings, the varieties of which range from herbal rosehip and orange blossom to wild, handpicked Taiwanese oolong. If you’re a tea newbie, the expert shopkeepers can answer any tea-related question you could possibly think of.

Szechuan House

Open since the ‘80’s, Szechuan House is considered the oldest continuously run Sichuan restaurant in the neighborhood, serving regional classics (mung bean noodles with hot and sour sauce; spicy roasted fish; all manner of hot pot options) in a bustling, no-frills dining room. Szechuan House is especially popular for those who want to test just how much spice they can handle.

Asian Jewels 

For many dim sum veterans in Flushing, there’s really nowhere else for weekend lunch other than Asian Jewels. The huge dining room is an attraction in itself, as servers roll their carts among the tables handing out freshly-made soup dumplings, steamed rice rolls, and pork buns. Aside from dim sum, it’s worth ordering one of the super authentic Cantonese dishes—the bird’s nest soup with crab meat and the sizzling platters (chicken, beef, mushrooms) are standouts.

Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao

This is the place to go for some of the best soup dumplings in NYC. The pork-and-crab is the most popular, but consider the other options, too: you’ve probably never tried a sweet version, and Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao serves theirs filled with melted chocolate and banana. It might sound unusual, but it’s incredibly good. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with the simple, hearty mapo tofu and scallion pancakes.

Leaf Bar & Lounge

On the expansive rooftop of Flushing’s Hyatt Centric hotel, Leaf Bar & Lounge represents the newer, hipper side of the neighborhood, where locals gather for after-work drinks and bites to eat. In a nod to its location, the menu includes bottles of Tsingtao beer, plus specialty cocktails like the chrysanthemum old fashioned, made with chrysanthemum-infused bourbon, ginger, agave nectar, and bitters.