NFT New York Jackson Heights

Jackson Heights

Home to immigrants from Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Latin America, Jackson Heights/Elmhurst is one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods on the planet. Jackson Heights is New York City's oldest gay community dating back to vaudevillians who moved there in the '30s. These days the boys who hang out there are mostly Latino and get their groove on at local night clubs. Late nights, clubgoers of all sexual orientations grab a snack from one of many Latino street food vendors.

Jackson Heights is also where Alfred Mosher Butts invented Scrabble in the 1930s, at the landmark Community Methodist Church, which today conducts services in several languages, and still plays host to a Scrabble club. The Scrabble Street Sign outside the church commemorates Butts' invention with point values corresponding to the letters in 35th Avenue. Elmhurst was never the birthplace of any board games, but it does have its share of historic houses of worship. See more.

>St. James Episcopal Church was chartered in 1734 by none other than King George III, and is its oldest building. Just up the road is the Dutch Reformed Church of Newtown, which was erected in 1831, and still bears the name of the original settlement.

Old churches provide ties to the past and all that, but the award for the area's most intriguing house of worship goes to Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram, a Thai temple whose ornate gilded roof stands out amidst the blocky multifamily homes surrounding it. Another edifice with an astonishing roof line is the five-spired Newtown High School built in 1897. The Baroque style school counts Omar Minaya, general manager of the New York Mets, among its alumni. Other architectural gems include Elks Lodge Local 878, which is now a megachurch, and the modernist Capital One Bank, with its swooping patina-green roof, originally built as a branch of the Jamaica Savings Bank in 1968. Jackson Heights is no slouch when it comes to architecture either and boasts its own historic district that features some of the first cooperative housing in the United States, including The Towers, built in 1924 and designed by Andrew J. Thomas. Its notable features are its mansard roof and sumptuous interior garden.

Unless you plan to settle down in a historic co-op, worship at a 200-hundred year old church, shop for saris in Little India, or suck down overpriced beers while checking out the scantily clad Latina dancers at so-called sports bars there’s really only one reason to come to the nabe: the food. Get off at the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway stop and you’ll find yourself in a veritable ethnic food lover's paradise. Roosevelt Avenue and the surrounding blocks are lined with Latin-American restaurants, including numerous Ecuadorean spots, legions of taco trucks, several Argentine steak houses, and dozens of Colombian bakeries.

Little India runs the length of 74th Street from Roosevelt to 37th Avenue. A new addition to the area is Little Tibet with several restaurants serving cuisine from the rooftop of the world. Out on Northern Boulevard Colombian hamburger and hot dog joints bring new meaning to "the works" by topping weenies and patties with potato chips, avocado and hard-boiled egg, among other things. Elmhurst also has its share of ethnic grub, including several excellent Thai and Indonesian eateries.

Taxi dancing joints like Flamingo; gay bars and clubs, including Friend's, the nabe's oldest; and "sports bars" like Ildas II, abound. For a truly transporting experience shake a tailfeather with Nepalese and Tibetans who flock to the Himalayan Yak for dinner and a band that plays everything from Bollywood to The Eagles.

Little India is home to Dosa Place and Merit Kabab & Dumpling Palace, which offers Pakistani, Nepali, and Tibetan. Newcomers include Polish comfort food specialist U Dzika and Shangri-La Express Dumpling and Curry House. And lest, we forget, The Arepa Lady, a former Colombian judge who serves up tasty late-night street food.


Browse Indian bridal jewelry at Shri Krishna Jewelers. Bombay bling not your thing? Check out fetish gear at London Boutique or get inked at Village Moon Tattoo. Ethnic groceries abound. For Thai ingredients try Katii Thai Grocery Store. Phil-Am Food Market is a must for Filipino food. We dare you to try the balut.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Jess Allen
Photo:  Jess Allen

Maharaja Sweets & Snacks
Some say we eat first with our eyes. If true, then Maharaja Sweets & Snacks in Jackson Heights offers belly-busting rainbows galore. Up front, a display case features desserts in all hues, from the bright pink of a young girl's bedroom to never-seen-in-nature lime green to a moist deep orange, full of wisdom and secrets. Silver slivers have been applied with a hand more liberal than a club kid getting ready for the night. In back, there's a seating area with table service. Staying or going, try a cham-cham, a hefty concoction of boiled cheese and sugar, or a jamun, similar to a donut but veritably dripping with syrup. Snacks---including samosas, pakoras, flavored naan, and chat---are decidedly savory, if less visually stimulating.

Posted By:  Layne Mosler
Photo:  Layne Mosler

Tangra Masala
The first thing you'll notice when you open the menu at Tangra Masala--an Indian-Chinese restaurant in Elmhurst that's recreating a marriage of two cuisines that started in Calcutta--is the sea of chili pepper symbols. Of the 159 dishes on the menu, 108 have chili pepper symbols next to them--and just in case the food's not explosive enough for you, every table is equipped with two jars of house-made chili sauce. But spicy isn't the only reason this place is a cab driver favorite: hot and sour soup ($3.95), lollipop chicken ($6.95, curry-breaded wings with chili mayo dip) and Manchurian chow mein (with ginger, garlic, scallions, bird chilies, chicken, cabbage, bean sprouts and egg noodles) fuse the most flavorful facets of India and China and keep locals coming back for more. In deference to Islamic tradition, they don't allow alcohol (Read: no beer to diffuse the heat). Credit cards are a no-no, as are strollers (no space). Though it's too clean to qualify as a hole-in-the-wall, gold-tassled curtains can't camouflage the grim windows or the view of the bus stop. But once you taste the food, none of these things matter.

Posted By:  Dave Cook

Corner Corn Cart
I love corn, but I hate getting it stuck between my teeth when I eat it off the cob. So I was more than happy to get my veggies from a fellow who serves spiced-up Mexican-style corn, both as elotes (ay-Loh-taze, from a cob) and as esquites (ess-Key-taze, from a cup). I asked for esquites "with everything" and got a payload of hot kernels, a slather of margarine, a pinch or two of grated white cheese, and a dusting of chili powder. Maybe I missed out on a little messy fun, but I consoled myself with a few extra spoonfuls from the bottom of the cup.

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow
Photo:  Courtesy Roomorama

Zabb Elee
The 7 train sweeps past quite a few authentic Thai restaurants, but Zabb is worthy of particular attention from those who love to feel the burn. Spicy specialties from the chefs' home province of Isaan dominate the menu. Some dishes that originated in Northeastern Thailand, like som tum (green papaya salad) and larb (ground meat salad), have already become ubiquitous throughout the global Thai takeout diaspora, while those involving organ meats, like gay jub, are understandably more obscure. Obscure, but good, if one likes pig parts. The less adventurous might stick to the delightfully crispy whole fried fish or the DIY fun of the Laotian-style hot pots. Regardless, do as they do in Isaan and try using a gob of sticky rice as your primary utensil. Zabb is BYOB and it stays open until 2 am, making it a fine place for late night revelry.

Posted By:  Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan

If you haven’t reveled in the joys of Korean-style fried chicken yet, UFC is a great place to start, if for no other reason than their logo is just about the cutest logo ever. The chicken is good, too, and that’s almost all they do here except for fries (potato or sweet potato), a random sandwich, and some way overly mayonnaised macaroni salad. You can choose from soy garlic, sweet-spicy, or sweet mustard sauces for the chicken, or you can let your chicken go au naturel. The food is made to order, so be patient (they’re double-frying it back there in the kitchen to ensure its extra-crispiness!). Dine upstairs where it’s airy and bright, or head downstairs to the darker, cozier seating area. Either way, grab a few extra napkins and enjoy every last bite. It will be easy to identify the deliciousness.

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow
Photo:  Courtesy Roomorama

Outgrown Kalustyan's? Patel Brothers supermarkets have aisle after aisle stocked with groceries from the Indian subcontinent, everything from toothpaste and hair dye to fresh vegetables and locally baked sweets. The produce section becomes mango central in summer, when the sweetest ones are snapped up 5 pounds at time as soon as they hit the shelf. The spice selection is a big draw for cooks, with fresh pouches of everything you need (and lots of stuff you probably haven't even heard of) for about a buck or two. For the cooking-averse, frozen TV dinners priced for $3 or less tend to be surprisingly good, definitely no worse than Midtown buffet fare. If you've got wheels, forget Costco: Come here to get 5 pound tubs of yogurt for $4, sacks of rice for $10, and 2 pound bags of grains and legumes for under $5. Besides, you can't get Saffron Pistachio ice cream at Costco.

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow
Photo:  Courtesy Roomorama

Not sure if the shop's name has anything to do with actress Karishma Kapoor, but this place can provide any lady with a wardrobe worthy of a Bollywood starlet. If you have a J. Crew credit card in your wallet, Karishma is not for you. These racks bulge with all things multicolored and spangled, from heavily embroidered formal ensembles to everyday tunics and trousers. Don't be afraid to mix your jewel tones! Once clothed, there's a fantastic selection of costume jewelry at the front counter to complete the look. With prices for matching sets of earrings, necklaces, and tikkas going for $25 to $150, you can glitter like a goddess for less than a tenth of the cost of the 22K gold sets displayed next door.

Posted By:  Jayson Walker
Photo:  Jayson Walker

Beer machismo might need some rethinking. I mean, it’s understood that a beer with added sweetness, sunny packaging, or even just a slice of citrus says its low booze content and slightly acidic taste is just too much for you to possibly stand, you pissy wimp. But crushed lime, shaved ice, and a salt-rimmed frosted mug after an hour long search for an open Latin restaurant on Monday night in a 25 degree bluster says that if you suffered through that ordeal, you can drink whatever you want, you handsome stud. Moreover, you can do it in a neon-lit mod-ish (for Queens) diner with $10 entrees like pan-fried steak, chorizo, bacon, and fried egg (for big boys only) and zippy orange (it’s OK, you’re tough!) pecositas de pollo over a mess of almond, bacon, plantain and deliciously oily rice that’s enough to take half home for lunch tomorrow (that’s OK too, big guy). You can also have a sour sop shake or sweet bread from their bakery and their cute waitresses will still smile at you, you red-blooded fella.

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