Posted by: Jeffsayyes | November 20, 2014

Momo Crawl 2014 Update

Things are looking up for the Momo Crawl.

Saturday, Nov 22nd, 2-5pm – Jackson Heights Food Court marquee (73-07 37th Road)
Invite on Facebook #MomoCrawl

-$1 momos from at least 15 momo places in Jackson Heights, with the possession of a Momo Map (available in exchange for 3 bills of any denomination)
-Henna Tattoos at Hamro Bhims: 1 bill of any denomination
-Whistling contest at GangJong Kitchen: whistle after eating Chef Tenzin’s mind-numbing sauce and you win a dinner-for-2
-Momo-making at Little Tibet
-Lil’ Momo kids shirts at Tibetan Mobile

Vote at 5pm outside the JH Food Court, followed by Momo Trophy presentation.

Just look for this awesome poster, made by Zach Kaitz:

email me Jeffsayyes@gmail.com for queries and volunteer opportunities

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | October 31, 2014

Announcing: Momo Crawl 2014

Momo Crawl 2014 will take place on Saturday, November 22nd from 2pm-5pm.

The third annual Momo Crawl – All restaurants and street vendors who sell momos in the half-mile around the Jackson Heights subway station will be offering momos for $1 each to those in possession of a 2014 momo map. Momo maps will be created by me and given in exchange for 3 bills of any denomination. There are currently 18 to 20 such places.

Some vendors will have added value like the whistling game at GangJong Kitchen where you can win a Dinner-for-2 if you are able to successfully whistle after eating a momo with chef Tenzin’s mind-numbing sauce, a make-your-own-momo at Little Tibet, drink specials, momo henna tattoos and more.

At the conclusion of the crawl, participants will meet back at the Jackson Heights Food Court to vote on the winner, who will then receive The Momo Trophy.

All are invited. Come to the Jackson Heights Food Court marquee starting at 2pm to pick up your map.

Momo Crawl 2014

Saturday, November 22nd
2pm-5pm
Jackson Heights Food Court
73-07 37th Rd, Jackson Heights, Queens
EFMR7 to Roosevelt Avenue/Jackson Heights/74th Street
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/310152259171135/

Info from prior years:
2013 Momo Crawl
2013 Momo Map and Trophy Construction
2012 Momo Crawl 

 

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | October 23, 2014

Interview with House Trip

Sometimes I get interviewed by websites or papers and they end up only taking a few snippets of our conversation. It sucks because I put a lot of time into my answers and they get lost in the annals of email archives. Well, I believe good content is a terrible thing to waste.

For now on, and even I’m going to scour my archives for interviews, I’m going to start publishing the questions and answers after the articles come out, especially when there is an abundance of extra information that went unpublished.

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food expert new york guide

To start off, here is an interview I did with HouseTrip.  The end product was a slick page with recommendations coming from a lot of respected food writers in the city. It’s good (except for the stock photo of pizza, ugh!) but only a bit of what I gave them made the cut, so here is the complete interview.

(feels kind of weird having me as the answerer, but whatever)

Housetrip: From your perspective, which local dish best represents New York’s food scene and why?
Jeffy Tastes: The taco. It’s the new pizza. And the future taco is the momo. NYC is a city of changing cultures. The people who are the sidenotes are soon to be the richest men and women in America. This changing street food is New York.

· Which dish should every foodie try at least once while being in New York (if it differs from the answer to the question above)?
Halal. It’s more than just a religious thing, it’s an entire cuisine in itself. The entirety of it is chicken and/or lamb over rice and it drives locals and travelers crazy.

Halalathon winners: TD Bank Halal CArt

· Where (which restaurant, café etc.) would you suggest trying this dish?
I love the TD Bank Cart in Jackson Heights (74th St and 37th Ave, east side), but that’s just for the “best” one… You can find them all over NYC.

· What sets the New York food scene apart from other cities? Why is it unique?
The entire world converges on New York City, then settles in their enclave. This preserves traditions and encourages chefs to cook for an audience of their peers.

· Any restaurants, cafés or markets you can recommend?
Dhaulagiri Kitchen for Nepalese, New World Mall Food Court in Flushing, Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Manhattan’s Chinatown, the 79th Street Greenmarket.

· Where do you buy regional/fresh ingredients if you’re cooking at home?
Usually 79th Street Greenmarket for local. In regards to regional, you could say that the cornucopia of cultures in Queens is our regional cuisine. Does regional have to be what’s grown here? Crabs in Baltimore are brought in from Louisiana. NYC is the import capitol of the world. Everything gets flushed down into NYC.

· We would also like to hear about any other tips you have about New York’s local food scene that may not have been covered above.
NYC is big. Every borough is big. Even the smallest borough is big. There are a lot of food scenes, and we will never cover them all. I’m trying my hardest to bring you the information so you can have a great time in New York, but don’t be afraid to blaze some trails and let the world know.

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This interview was directly pointed towards travelers to this city. As you know, they deserve to have an excellent, authentic and convenient experiences when they come to NY. Yes, give them the finger when they don’t know how to drive, but still be nice.

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | October 22, 2014

37th Road Jackson Heights Diversity Plaza Visioning Session

Last Saturday I went to the visioning session for the plaza on 37th Road in Jackson Heights. Commonly referred to as Diversity Plaza, this spot has been a place of contention, first the placement of and now the discussion of what to do with it and the waiting game for something, anything, to be done there.

Currently the area exists as two closed off streets, one on 37th Rd between 73rd and 74th Streets, and one on 73rd Street between Broadway and Roosevelt Avenue. These sit as the entranceway to the community, at one of the biggest transit stations in New York City, making it a spot with incredible potential.

The area is frequently used for festivals, and for a place for people to gather. As of today, the spots for anyone to sit has been paltry, as temporary places to sit yield increasingly less places to sit as temporary furniture inevitably breaks and is never replaced. A few planters are there but it increasingly looks just like a closed street with people strolling around. The planters have added some effects, but it’s still a skeleton of what it could and should be (by now).

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On Saturday, Oct 18th, there was a visioning session from the Department of Transportation to get some ideas from the community. They gave us maps and we were put in groups to discuss ways to make the area more useable. Lots of members of the community, including many who currently use the plaza and others who stay away from it, came up with many suggestions, which are going to be digested by the DOT. The DOT will then come back with a plan for the plaza and we will then discuss…

Courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

Courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

Courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

Courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

Courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

As someone connected to people who live in the area, tourists who visit the area, and political and non-political groups in the area I’d like to lay out a few ideas for the plaza – some inspired by my group at the meeting, some inspired by others, and some are things that I have been thinking about for a long time. Here are my suggestions for Diversity Plaza:

- Permanent seating. In prior planning discussions for the plaza, I had gotten major blowback when I suggested permanent seating because of the fear that homeless people will sleep there. It is a terrible waste of space for people to be standing around at all hours of the night as they do now. This area is a 24-hour experience, with many people who live and visit using the area at all times of day and night. I believe we need to serve us all. Rinky dink temporary seating is not cutting it, anyhow. Come to the plaza, and you’ll see that the current chairs are out of place and certainly don’t have enough of an impact.

That and the chairs are generic. They are made in France too. You can find the same chairs in plazas all over the US. Why don’t they hire Build It Green to make us some chairs and tables. We have the talent here.

The area is an amazing people watching experience, and right now it isn’t inviting enough. Permanent seating is needed here.

- Create a Point of Significance on the triangle between 73rd Rd, Roosevelt Ave, and Broadway. This island is currently known for having massive amounts of bird poop on it. The obvious thing to do is make efforts to encourage birds to poop elsewhere, but I don’t think many people thought about actually getting the area populated. The 37th Road section of the plaza is a natural draw because it is right near all the stores and the subway entrance, but this island needs to give the people some more encouragement. I believe it needs something large, inviting, with seating to entice people to come to that space. Maybe an everchanging art wall or maybe a large sculpture where people can be drawn to, that they’ll feel comfortable sitting at.

- Eliminate the bicycle lanes. It is a fallacy to think that bicycles belong in the same category as pedestrians. I don’t think bicycles should be encouraged in the plaza if they don’t get their own lane. Bikes should be considered in the same place as cars. The plaza has people walking all over it, to have bicycles navigating around for the purpose of travel is a dangerous situation. Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt is a great book on the subject.

-Permanent performance space. The area is home to many cultures who appreciate the spectacle of performance. At the many festivals, and even impromptu, there are people performing here all the time. There are the amphitheaters in Roosevelt Island, where a theater would double as seating when not in use.

Amphitheater on Roosevelt Island

- Temporary, permanent-style seating. The projected completion date is 2017. We cannot wait 2 years for something to happen. We deserve some major seating for the interim. Something that could be trucked away when construction occurs. We cannot wait 2 more years.

-Extend the plaza eastwards. All of 37th Avenue should be a plaza. Much more seating and play area. The street does not get much use as it is, and the traffic down those roads are slow and don’t alleviate much traffic as it is.

-Public WiFi. duh.

What do you think should go in the plaza?

Photos courtesy Rodrigo Salazar

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | October 16, 2014

Just for you, Tourists: A Day In Queens

I highly value tourists. You are open-eyed and willing to bring monetary compensation to the great destination you have chosen to visit. Your time is limited, though, and I don’t want you to be steered wrong by people with intentions other than your amazement, entertaining education, value, and general well-being. You shall not be swindled by PR companies, empty monikers, and fake monks. You shall not wait in line at brunch, at the awkward spot in the bar, or huddled in the pre-lobby, money in hand, waiting to be taken, liked on social media, then exited with a hollow sense of accomplishment.

Queens is an amazing place.  If Queens were a city in itself (and I am all for the break-up of the boroughs, btw), it’d be the 4th largest city in the U.S. – Nearly as big as Chicago. Now, if places like Charleston, Dallas, and Salt Lake City are major tourist destinations, then Queens should be just as much, if not moreso. I’ve been down on New York City many times, but the unrepeatable traits of Queens have taken a stronghold on my stay. My history is based on immigration and entrepreneurship, and my future is to make it better. If Queens is not the number one place in the world for this, then I will consider another turret for progression.

From my tours, I’ve realized that tourists who come to Queens have a little more time on their hands – and they want the NYC alternative experience. They’ve already done Central Park, Staten Island Ferry, Top of the Rock, Harlem, Times Square, and the Highline. Most people who take my tours come to Queens because they have heard about all the cultures from TV and online, and all the food – but they don’t know where to start. So I’m going to give you a simple one day excursion of all killer, no filler places to go and things to eat. Queens is full of great, local experiences, but for this post I’m going to concentrate on World-Class destinations, guaranteeing you a great time in Queens no matter where you are from. There are many articles online with recommendations for Queens, but from my experiences with travelers from all over the world, this aims to be a concise guide without being esoteric. I have no kickbacks and while I do give tours as a part of what I do, I will refrain from boostering anything directly involved with me. I won’t even link to it.

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The biggest challenge Queens faces in gaining tourism dollars is the East River and Manhattan. With so many tourists staying in Manhattan, crossing a major geographic object appears daunting (ask most NYers if they want to go all the way to another borough). Also, how can PS1 compete with the MoMA? How can Donovan’s Pub compete with McSorley’s or Shake Shack in terms of convenience mixed with quality? LIC Flea with Smorgasburg? They can’t. Those places are for us. Unless you are a burger junkie or modern art obsessive, I say it doesn’t make sense to travel all the way to Queens for these activities, and others that are frequently recommended. That is why this article is necessary. You need not be steered into something 2nd to some. Queens is a jewel of the world. On the spiderweb of cultural movement, all lines lead to Queens. Other cities, including Manhattan cannot compete. Here is an itinerary for a day in Queens, of which no other city can compete. And here is a spoiler:

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MID-MORNING – Astoria for the MoMI

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The Museum of the Moving Image is a world-class, destination museum. It is THE museum for film and film history, and it’s located on a TV lot (which you probably won’t have any access to, sorry). It’s not huge, so you’ll be able to do the whole thing in an hour or two’s time. They also have film showings, but how can you sit there and watch a movie when there is so much going on outside?? Well, if it’s raining or you have a special interest, they are probably worth the cinematic experience.

For the purposes of this day, I recommend eating near where you are staying because we need to space our meals as far apart as possible; but if you haven’t had breakfast yet and it’s before the 10:30am opening time, head to Queens Kickshaw for coffee and food that raises the bar; if you want to get a taste of Brazil, start your day at Pão de Queijo.

Museum of Moving Image
36-01 35th Ave, Astoria, Queens 11106

Queens Kickshaw
40-17 Broadway, Astoria

Pão de Queijo
31-90 30th St, Astoria

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AFTERNOON – Jackson Heights to the Unisphere

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The Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station is the center point of an unmatchable number of cultural enclaves (and therefore food options). From the Himalayan Heights directly north of the station to Little Manila at Roosevelt/69th St, Little Bangladesh at 73rd St/37th Ave, Little India at 74th St/37th Rd, Calle Colombia at 82nd St where along the way you’ll find Mexican, Ecuadorian and Peruvian places, ThaiTown at Woodside Avenue/76th St, and one of the city’s five Chinatowns at Broadway/Whitney that hosts Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indonesian among possibly other nationalities currently moving in.

Specifically, for a small party of one or two, try Dhaulagiri Kitchen for an experience that will make you feel like you’ve left not only NYC but the US of A. It’s Nepalese, so a few words will help you order like a local: “Thali” for a whole meal, “Momos” for dumplings, and “Samabajji” for a snack platter. For a bit more space, and just as much of an experience, try Phayul or Little Tibet for Tibetan. If you are a chef and want learn about food, try GangJong Kitchen at an off-hour so you can talk to Tenzin the owner and chef. Walk off lunch by visiting one of the many markets in the area or snack places listed below and when you are ready for your respite from food, take the 7-train to the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Dhaulagiri Kitchen – Nepal
37-38 72nd St

Phayul – Tibet
37-65 74th St

Little Tibet – Tibet
72-19 Roosevelt Ave

GangJong Kitchen – Tibet/Indian
72-24 Roosevelt Ave,

Dera – Pakistani
7209 Broadway

Apnaa Bazaar – Bangladeshi Market
7220 37th Ave

ThaiThai Grocery – Thai Market
76-13 Woodside Ave

Phil-Am Mart – Filipino Market
7002 Roosevelt Ave

Hong Kong Supermarket – Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese
82-66 Broadway

flushing unisphere (2)

The Unisphere is an incredible thing to see, something which will be THE ICON of your trip to NYC – only the Statue of Liberty might give you a more iconic view (yet with a bit more hassle to get to). I recommend taking the 7-train to 111th Street to get to the Unisphere. You’ll see a great section of Ecuadorian and Mexican street food just outside the subway station at 111th/Roosevelt NW corner, then your walk south to the Unisphere will cross through some of the neighborhood then a diverse array of sights as you walk through the the park.  Just south of the Unisphere is an amazing, neglected treasure/ruin of New York City – The New York State Pavilion.

Unisphere / New York State Pavilion
Flushing Meadows-Corona State Park

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SUNDOWN – Flushing

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Flushing is arguably the biggest Chinatown in New York. While Manhattan’s Chinatown is home to Cantonese and Fujianese, Flushing holds populations from many more regions than perhaps anywhere outside of China. It’s not difficult to have an enthralling time in Chinatown Flushing, I recommend a food court like in the basement of the New World Mall, and a stroll down Main Street and around to Union St and you’ll see a transformation to Korean. There is A LOT. Use Yelp for more assistance.

New World Mall
4021 Main St

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AFTER-HOURS – Terraza 7

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For the night, come back on the 7 train to 82nd Street and head to one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to: Terraza 7 Cafe. Most nights of the week, you’ll get a great performance with jazz and experimental bands playing on the loft. It’s such an interesting space that you’ll never be able to capture with your lens.

Terraza 7
40-19 Gleane St, El
mhurst, NY 11373

Want more? Depending on the specifics of your interests, Queens is a great place to get surrounded by just about any culture you aim for. Astoria is home to large pockets of Egyptian, Lebanese, Greek, Italian, Brasilian, and most recently Japanese among many other cultures. Elmhurst has emerged as Thai Town, with tastes of Malaysia, China, Indonesia and Vietnam. For pizza, slice versions cannot be beat by the likes of Rosa’s in Maspeth, John’s of Elmhurst, and Amore of Flushing. For Latin American, there’s Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Colombian and Mexican in Corona and even a drop Portuguese in Jamaica. Peruse my own site here about mostly Roosevelt Avenue as well as Yelp, Foursquare, Real Cheap Eats, Serious EatsAmuse Bouche by Bradley HawksWe Heart Astoria, Chopsticks and Bone MarrowRidgewood Social, Edible Queens (in hibernation) for more local stuff, and if you have time, a Met game at CitiField. Highly impressive books,  “Food Lover’s Guide to Queens” by Meg Cotner, “Queens: A Culinary Passport” by Andrea Lynn, “New York Street Food” by Jacqueline Goossens, Tom Vandenberghe and Luk Thys – all of whom are good friends and I am in awe of what they have accomplished.

I hope the same care can be provided to me when I come to visit your great city. Comment at will.

Posted by: Jeffsayyes | October 8, 2014

Andrea Lynn’s Queens: A Culinary Landscape – Interview

I just got in Andrea Lynn’s book Queens: A Culinary Passport: Exploring Ethnic Cuisine in New York City’s Most Diverse Borough the other night, and I’ve already gone through it all. The 224 pages in sterling color highlights 6 neighborhoods in Queens which are known to be outstanding areas of eatery, details recipes provided by or inspired by dishes at the restaurants, and interviews persons of interest familiar with the borough (including a 3-page interview with me, hell yeah!).
I love the book. I picked up so many great tips and the segments are an easy read – able to pick up and put down at any moment. Here I asked Andrea a few questions about the book and her process, just enough to possibly pique your interest:

Why did you choose to do a book on Queens food? 
Brooklyn gets a lot of food hype, but I wanted to showcase the irresistible, ethnic choices of Queens. Specific restaurants certainly get a bit of buzz, but I felt that the borough as whole just doesn’t get the culinary love it deserves.

You have recipes to just about every other restaurant listed here, were there any concerns from the owners about giving away the family secrets? 
As a recipe developer who understands the livelihood recipes can provide, I flat-out said, “Do not give me any secrets if you don’t want to.”  My goal was to get a workable recipe for an at-home version of the dish. But I didn’t want to be responsible for any secrets coming out! The information I got really ran the gamut. Some restaurants let me into the kitchen to watch them cook. But others were more comfortable just telling me which ingredients without specifying amounts or techniques, and I relied on my culinary background to create a recipe. And it’s understandable! This is their business, and they have every right to be proprietary towards their recipe. One amusing thing was when I was working on the Arroz con Pollo from Rincon Criollo, the recipe they gave me specified only one type of beer. “Can it only be Budweiser beer?” I had asked. The answer? YES! The owner’s uncle had been doing it that way for decades and that was the way it stayed.

How did growing up in the south influence your appreciation for Queens? 
I grew up in a small town in Alabama–Applebee’s came along when I was in my teens, and it was a monumental occasion. The only ethnic showing was one Chinese restaurant. But my mom would take me to Atlanta a lot where I could be exposed to a variety of cuisines which really started my path of food obsession. It still blows my mind the variety of cuisines available in Queens, and I’ve become quite spoiled by all the options.

This book is so thorough, aren’t you tired of Queens yet? Surely you must want to take breaks (totally cool if you do). What places are you still excited about in Queens?
Ha! As if. Every week, I discover new places that I wish I had been able to squeeze into the book. I think a book could practically be written about each region of Queens, if someone took that challenge. So it’s more of me kicking myself that I couldn’t include every little tidbit there is. For the book, it was decided to focus on places reachable by subway or walking. But there’s so much beyond that (hello, a lot of Jamaica).
Is there anything you wish you could have added to the book since publication? 
Ah, Mu Ramen in Long Island City!! I have been stalking their twitter account to stay on top of their exact opening date (sometime in October apparently). I went when it was a pop-up in a Long Island City bagel shop; the ramen was spectacular with so much depth to it. Also, the person next to me (the pop-up had community-seating) got the most amazing-looking sea urchin which I can’t stop thinking about. I know, I know. I’m obsessed with a sea urchin dish I didn’t even eat.

What are you currently working on? Now that your opus is complete.
Another cookbook proposal! My work life feels a little empty without a cookbook to obsess over.

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Thanks Andrea, for your hard work and dedication to the Queens borough. The world is a better place for it.

For more on Andrea Lynn, food writer, see http://andrealynnfoodwriter.com/

Peruse the book in person at the Astoria Book Shop, 31-29 31st St, http://www.astoriabookshop.com/
Posted by: Jeffsayyes | September 16, 2014

Viva La Comida 2014 – The Food!

This is turning out to be a good one. The process for Viva La Comida is much more than necessary. I spend a lot of time traveling to vendors, many times with ambassadors, to find the perfect fits for the festival. The finish line is getting a line-up of 10 or so street vendors in a variety of styles, whose fans have an utmost loyalty to them. Most are family run, many are from the area. Here at this event, you are getting a true feeling of the people of NYC. It’s not refined, it’s real.

Viva La Comida
Saturday, Sept 20th, 2014
1pm-8pm
82nd Street/Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY
7-train to 82nd Street or EFMR to Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave
http://www.vivalacomida.com/
Tell your friends or else they will be mad at you for keeping this a secret: 
https://www.facebook.com/events/680801718674596

Here’s a rundown of the food carts and why they were chosen. All locations are Queens unless otherwise noted. Queens is the best.

Tortas Neza with the Arepa Lady

The Arepa Lady (Fri-Sat, 79th St/Roosevelt) – Legendary street food vendor of Jackson Heights, probably the most famous vendor of NYC. They live in the neighborhood, and just opened their own restaurant at 77-02AA Roosevelt ave (enter on 77th St). Anyone from the area knows they do the best arepas, and if you are visiting, you can read about it in the newspaper . This cart has been so popular the last two years that the majority of complaints were because of it – the lines were too long.

D’Angelo’s Italian Sausage Truck (Woodhaven Blvd at 67th Drive) – This is a true festival of the people, giving a nod to NY’s classic street food – the hot dog. I’m happy to have these guys here because A) They make an awesome product of hot dogs, sausages, knishes, and hot dogs in knishes, and B) This type of street vendor has been overlooked in most curated situations because of it’s ubiquity in NYC. You always see ones like this at mozzarepa festivals and as vendors on Manhattan street corners, but what these guys are special. They are carrying the torch of sausages and hot dogs for all of New York. The smell will be intoxicating. The Peter Luger’s of Sausage Wagons (Queens Courier)

Ricas Botanas (Roosevelt/Junction) – Among vendors in Jackson Heights, Claudia Lopez is the queen. She and her husband have been vending here for 20 years, respected and jovial at all times. Her churros recently caught the masses attention, being a finalist for best dessert at the Vendy’s 2014. Freshly fried churros, at a ridiculous price – you’ll love it. Here is fellow food dude Brian Hoffman’s call: Dish of the Week: Churros at Ricas Botanas and his video here

El Coyote Dormilon (Roosevelt/92nd St) – This crew has only been at it for less than three years, but they are already one of the best, if not the best, Mexican cart on Roosevelt. If you’ve been on my Midnight Crawl, you’ve almost definitely been here, and the quesadilla has probably been one of your favorites. Freshly packed masa, newly strung quesillo cheese, their quesadillas are a must-get.  In the WSJ

Mysttik Masaala (54/Park in Manhattan) – Returning for a 2nd year, this cart is the labor of love from Yuvaraaj Thakkar in remembrance of his son’s wish to open a true Indian food cart. For the festival, this is a great vegetarian food stop, but also a great place for the flavor of India. You will love Yuvaraaj when you meet him, everyone does. Early look from We Heart Astoria

Potala momos courtesy Jando

Potala Momo Cart (Broadway/37th Rd, Jackson Heights)You know momos have a special place in my heart. These dumplings are extremely popular here in Jackson Heights – starting out as a celebratory dish in the far east, but here in Queens it’s an everyday thing – but they are only beginning to be seen elsewhere in the city. Potala is a successful business, making some of the best momos in the area. 8 come in an order, so split an order with friends. Eat them fresh out of the steamer so they are at their juiciest, and be careful not to puncture with your fork (eat with your hands if you can). I am very happy to have them back for a 2nd straight year. Great rundown by Untapped Cities

Mama Food of Flushing (39th Ave/Main) – Looking for a Chinese-style skewer vendor was getting difficult. I wanted those wafts of coal and skewers at the festival, but most of the vendors are quite honestly hard to break – most also do festival-like business every single day in their usual locations. The first year, we were lucky to have Xin Jiang Prosperity Kebabs attend, but this year, to be honest, I was intent on getting a Queens-based skewer vendor. Just as I had lost all hope, scouring Elmhurst and Flushing and coming up with a full-happy belly and no signatures for the event, I happened upon Mama’s Food cart. The fare seemed very interesting, cooking squids in very real shapes on the grill (tentacles hanging out), along with Korean and Chinese kebabs. The woman cooking was wearing this cute outfit and spoke English pretty well (possibly a NY native!). Then I looked over and saw an older woman who looked very familiar - It was Sunny from Xin Jiang Prosperity Kebabs! A bright ray of light in the smoke filled foodie tornado that is Flushing. It barely took any thought, she loved the prospect of returning to Viva and is going to put on a show for us. So, we have a skewer cart, from Queens, and it’s a returning vendor – triple score! This will definitely be picture worthy cart for you.

Manos Peruanos (47th St/6th Ave in Manhattan) – Peruvians are one of the fastest growing populations in this area, and we in Queens are lucky because of it – all of the new, casual Peruvian restaurants is a wonderful thing. Another 2nd year player for the festival, this cart actually operates out of Manhattan in the Rockefeller Center area, but the owners are affiliated with Lima Limon and are from the area. Being one of only two Peruvian carts in the city, I am happy to have them representing at the festival. I will eat anything they serve on a bed of cilantro rice.

Espumilla

Espumilla, Espumilla! (Junction/Roosevelt) – Espumilla is a dessert that is rarely found outside of Corona (or Ridgewood) in NYC. The Ecuadorian dessert is a meringue typically made with guava, here’s a recipe. Formerly a cart with no name, look out for Maria and her Espumilla pushcart and enjoy a scoop.

Sample Ecuadorian Cart

Picaditas Ecuatoriano – All I wanted at Viva La Comida was a pig on a cart. These carts are iconic to Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, but the past two years they have eluded the fest. Owe it mainly to the desire to be loyal to their customers, it was up until the last minute of cementing the lineup that the lovely Claudia from Ricas Botanas (see above) used her charm and influence to convince Picaditas Ecuatoriano to come. This should be a good show. For a primer on what to get at these carts, see my page here: Ecuadorian Food Cart Defined

This is a true trip around the world, all on 82nd Street. All carts, so the food is going to be right there in front of you. The festival is free to attend, just pay as you would normally at a street fair. There’s going to be music, magic, games, lots of picnic tables, and all the smells, sounds, and flavors of NYC here on 82nd Street.

This event is put on with the 82nd Street Partnership, funds coming from the businesses of their district and sponsors such as USTA, NYCFC, New York Language Center, Dr. Ismail Bastida La Clinica Dental, Councilpersons Danny Dromm and Julissa Ferreras, and Department of Small Business Services.

Last year was a lot of fun and craziness. This year should be even bigger and better. Bring an appetite.

Here’s a video from last year courtesy of Rodrigo Salizar:

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