As any true New York foodie will tell you: the most vibrant, authentic and prolific of the city’s food scenes can be found in Queens. Whether you’re up for hand-made noodles pulled right before your eyes, whole Indian spices you can’t find anywhere else, or traditional Greek meze, the borough knows how to deliver on soul-warming epicurean experiences.
Still, Queens is a mystery to many of us. One woman hopes to uncover its secrets and publish them for all to read. Leah McLaughlin is the owner and publisher of Edible Queens, which launches this fall. Like its sister publications, Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan, the Queens magazine will tell the story of the borough’s chefs, bartenders, restaurateurs, farmers, food purveyors, and various mongers. But Edible Queens will differentiate itself by looking at the home cooks living in the borough because, as McLaughlin says, “people in Queens cook at home for their families.”
We had a chance to chat with McLaughlin, who hopes the magazine will entice New Yorkers from other boroughs to visit Queens. (And isn’t afraid that the influx of Manhattanites seeking out “authentic ethnic” experiences will ruin it.)
You’re a relatively new transplant to Queens. Why did you move there?
I’ve spent time in Manhattan on the Lower East Side, East Harlem, and in Brooklyn. After awhile in New York, it starts to become like a small town. Everything starts to look the same. I had never set food in Queens–maybe once in Jackson Heights to buy spices. But two-and-a-half years ago, I moved to Long Island City. It’s a huge, awesome borough.
Queens is like the final frontier when it comes to dining in New York. What are some of the must-have experiences for first-time visitors to the borough?
Flushing is amazing for the incredible variety of dumpling and noodle stalls. People are making hand-pulled noodles right in front you and it’s unbelievable fresh. Woodside has an excellent Thai restaurant that is incredibly authentic. It’s where a lot of people go the first time they come to Queens.
If you’re an adventurous cook, you have to get yourself to Jackson Heights market to get spices there. If you know about spices, you know to buy them whole and grind them yourself. The whole spices in Jackson Heights are top notch.
Agnanti, on the corner of Astoria Park, has the most authentic meze. You can have a great Greek meal, then walk around the park.
What are some of the lesser-known food experiences to be had?
A lot of people might not know that the oldest working farm in New York State is in Queens. The Queens Country Farm Museum has changed from what was a glorified petting zoo to a sustainable farm selling its products at the Greenmarket.
Even small delis that are nothing special are amazing. You get a sandwich and a couple old guys sitting around will chat with you and share their history with you and tell you why their sandwich is so great.
How will Edible Queens be different from Edible Brooklyn or Edible Manhattan?
We’ll not only cover the chefs, but also real people who live here and cook here. People here have cooking gardens, and they have a real respect for cooking. It’s how they communicate with their friends and families–through food. It’s how they stay in touch with the memories of their homeland. They prepare their food with love.
We’ll also have more recipes in Edible Queens. People do food shopping here. It’s not a takeout culture.
So, you aren’t worried that the magazine will cause an influx of Manhattanites looking for a gastro-thrill across the bridge?
No, not at all! My whole thing with the magazine is to give Queens its due. I want people to come and patronize the businesses out here. Our magazine is a local magazine for people who want to learn about their neighbors, but if you’re a Manhattanite and love good food, Queens is a great place.
The first issue of Edible Queens will be available in September for free all around the borough of Queens. Paid subscriptions will also be available. But you need not wait until the fall to get your Queens fix–the website already features blog entries and listings for farmers’ markets and CSAs.
Don’t all go trampling the Queensboro at once, now.