Yeah, yeah, yeah, ... Manhattan food is great. Everyone knows that. But, what about Queens, bro? Been out there for some great eating? Most likely not.
Well, you should; cause, as far as the Phở Boys are concerned, short of traveling to China, Italy, Colombia, Taiwan, Greece or South Korea, this is as close to authentic, local, well priced food from these countries as one can get. In fact, Queens feels a lot like Cleveland: a great place that people from the outside seem to ignore.
So, why Queens? 'Cause my brother Warren lives there, in Flushing to be exact. While I am a Cleveland transplant, my family hails from the east coast--PA, Washington DC, New York City. Warren has been in Queens for 18 years. Plus, my nephew, Kevin, lives in Brooklyn. Yo!, A shout out to the family in Flushing and Murray Hill; respect to the folks in Brooklyn Heights!!
Some Facts About Queens You may not KnowHere are some interesting facts about Queens most people probably do not know. To begin, Queens is home to JFK International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. C'mon now! And, in terms of sports, Queens has Flushing Meadows Park, home to the New York Mets and the US Open tennis tournament.
But, the most important thing to note is that Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the word, with a population of over 2.2 million, 48% of whom are foreign---presenting over 100 different nations and speaking over 138 different languages. I tell you, when I am there, i can walk three blocks and feel as if I just traveled around the world. I absolutely love it, love it, love it!!!!!!
And with cultural diversity like that, you are going to run into some absolutely incredible food. Case in point: The Flushing Golden Mall Food Court.
Flushing Mall Food CourtIf you like Asian food in all of its incredible variety and you happen to have a chance to go to Queens, then head straight for the Flushing Golden Mall Food Court (image to the right from VIP in the City). Don't believe me? Just type "flushing mall food court" into Google and see what you get. How many food courts in Mentor or 'anywhere else USA' for that matter get the respect you find for such a place?
Yelp alone has over 209 reviews--click here to see--and Anthony Bourdain, the man/the legend, has even been there--click here to watch. For tons of food pictures, click here.
You order, for example, rice and pork and you get a dish more delicious and unrecognizable than you can find at any "Americanized" suburban Asian restaurant--rice dripping with fat pork and pickled peppers and vegetables (the leftovers are shown to the right). You just shove it into your mouth and go "Yummmmmmmm!"
Being a Phở Boy though, I mostly like the soup!
Getting to the Food Court
So, here is how it works. First, you have to find the Golden Mall, which is no simple task, as it is tucked away on 39th street, near Main Street Flushing. Then, you've got to find the basement, which is where all the food is. (By the way, the upper floors of the Mall are a maze of clothing shops, learning centers, bulk supplies, wooden comb stores, tea shops, and exercise programs--all totally worth checking out--image to the above right comes from the Food Enthusiast, who provides a review of all the food stalls in the mall.)
Once in the basement, you navigate over to the food court. Little is in English, so you just look around, see what other people are eating, ask them what the number for it is, and then order it. But, ordering is no simple task. See, you first decide what you want to eat; then you locate the cash register in the middle of the seating area; you tell the woman what you want and pay; then, without telling you, she electronically sends the order to the different food courts; you then run around, from one place to the next, listening for them to call your number, and get your stuff. The first couple times my daughter and I went, we completely embarrassed ourselves. People would giggle at us and then kindly tell us what to do.
Funny Brian StoryOkay, so for those of you who have not followed me on other blogs, I need to tell you now. I am an idiot! I mean it! I am not being mean to myself--ask my family! I really am an idiot who, in his own mind, thinks of himself as a rock-star-bad-ass who is all about keeping it real! The problem is that I live in a total fantasy world. In the real world, however, where keeping it real can go totally wrong, I am none of those things.
So, i come rolling into the Gold Mall Food court, right? My daughter is just looking at me like I am a total freak--as only your kids can, right! So, we order our food, pay the clerk, listen for our numbers, and everything is rolling smooth. So, what do I do? I fly to close to the sun, my friend.
As I am getting my soup--shown above: a thickened seafood soup, with fresh cilantro and vegetables, with the most wonderful rice noodles you can imagine--I decide to go for the heat.
On the stall table, to the right, is a small, inviting bowl of olive-oil-and-red-hot-pepper-seeds, just calling out my name. Being a badass, I think to myself, "Yeah, I gonna have some of that." So, I scoop up a spoon full and put it in my soup. My daughter and the cooks around me stop and look. What?
Not grasping the stupidity of my decision, I decide to go for a second scoop! Everyone around me now looks nervous. Hey, don't they know I am a Phở Boy!! And that's when, as I said earlier, I flew too close to the sun, my friend. I went for a third scoop! Yes folks, as the bloated, sweating, red-hot picture here reveals, I am not lying. I lit up like a damn Oompa Loompa!!! I kept saying to Ruby, "Is my face red?" Finally, she just took a picture. I thought my eyes would burn away from the inside out.
But, true to the Phở Boy's spirit, I actually finished most of my soup before giving in. It was one of the best soup experiences of my life!