Queens For A Day

So what if somebody else bet on the bay. After your nag finishes out of the money, drown your sorrows and refuel your ego right on the spot at New York's largest restaurant, Equestris, with seating for 1,500, several great bars, deli counters and burger stands. Sit in the Man O' War Room with a drink and listen to an old-timer screaming at the TV during a race beamed from Laurelton, Maryland: "Get up there! Get up there!" When his horse finishes out of the money, his pal says laconically, "He didn't hear you."

After the races, beat the old-timer and his pal to the Eclipse Lounge at 111-46 Lefferts. From the outside, it looks like a good place in which to get stabbed, but the patrons are good people. Monday through Wednesday, drinks are half price; Friday and Saturday, there's live rock and salsa. —AC

Aqueduct Raceway Rockaway Boulevard and 110th Street, in southern Queens. Belt Parkway west to Exit 18B (Lefferts Boulevard/N. Conduit Avenue). Stay on N. Conduit to Aqueduct's entrance. 718-848-3169.


Flushing

A vibrant Asian hometown away from home, Flushing isn't laden with tourists like Manhattan's Chinese neighborhood. It's a real Chinatown. The businesses are here for the people who live in its apartments and houses, for the diverse Asian community now sprawling throughout the greater Flushing area east to Bayside and Little Neck.

Head south on Main Street, and just across the Expressway past the cemetery is a strong Orthodox Jewish community that keeps adding immigrants from Eastern Europe and Israel. NAOMI'S FALAFEL, the first and only place to get a falafel in Queens 30 years ago, has now been joined by COLBEH, a kosher Persian restaurant that has branches in Great Neck and Manhattan, serving all kinds of kebabs.

The depth of the restaurants here is well documented. Outposts of restaurants from Chinatown are here in force: JOE'S SHANGHAI (with its famous soup dumplings), PENANG MALAYSIAN (its Roti Canai at half the price of the restaurant's branches in Soho and Uptown) and new arrival SHANGHAI TANG. But hundreds of places are native to Flushing, like SWEET HOUSE, on Prince Street off Roosevelt, a small Taiwanese drink bar that specializes in tapioca drinks and teas. Black and white tapioca pearls are ladled into tall glasses containing various concoctions of fruit-flavored liquids—or you can have taro, mint, mung-bean paste or Ovaltine-based drinks. The menu also offers iced drinks with a choice of three items, like corn, barley, gelatin, peach, pineapple, palm seed, mung bean, red bean, seaweed jelly or peanuts. Snacks ranging from toast and jam to a whole chicken are also available, but this place is a cool little café designed for after dinner or a snack with one of the drinks.

The SWEET-N-TART CAFÉ, which opened a few years ago on 38th Avenue and then branched into Manhattan's Chinatown, is an ultra-modern place, and that fits Flushing, which has become a trendsetter because many affluent Taiwanese have settled here, preferring to leave Chinatown to the tourists. Sweet and Tart specializes in sago drinks. (Sago is extracted from the pith of the sago palm and processed into flour and pearls like tapioca.) The sago is then mixed into tea with different flavor combinations like mint or cinnamon green tea and almond or taro milk tea. The main attraction here, though, is Tong Sui, concoctions purported to enhance health that are blended behind a sleek counter surrounded by mounds of fresh fruit. Some come cold, some come hot and some come double-boiled. The hot Tong Shui can be eaten like soup. More common fruit and vegetable drinks with ingredients like carrots and watermelon instead of lotus seeds or snow frogs are also available. The kitchen in back turns out dishes like sausage and taro on rice, served in bamboo bowl.

The Mets still play at Shea, of course, which is only a short walk from downtown Flushing. Other landmarks, however, are gone, like the old Keith theater and Diskin's, a venerable clothing store on Roosevelt Avenue. Back in the day, Diskin's sold purple bell-bottoms and tie-dyed shirts to nascent hippies, but the real attraction was that it was one of only two places in Queens that sold tickets for the Fillmore East. Since then, Flushing has undergone a cultural revolution. Right down the street from where Diskin's used to be, among the noodle joints, is a tea and herb shop called SHUN AN TONG, dominated by large barrels of ginseng roots in the middle of the floor. This is the frontline for standbys like ginseng and for herbal remedies like Tu Gee San, an herb mixture that purports to treat sexual impotency and frequent urination.

Up Main Street is BUDDHA BODAI NATURE VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT, which opened in June. With Chef Weng in the kitchen an entire menu of delicious mock Chinese food has been constructed from tofu and wheat gluten. This style of cooking got its start when Buddhist cooks in China started cooking vegetarian versions of popular Chinese foods for their guests at monasteries. Kung Pao chicken, jumbo shrimp with walnuts and steak with Chinese broccoli couldn't all be made with tofu, could they? Tasting is believing. The "beef," served with broccoli, looked genuine and was perfectly textured and tender. The curry chicken is an uncanny recreation. Do we even need meat? Or bell-bottoms, for that matter? —Ron M. Beigel

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