The sel roti at Mustang Thakali Kitchen — much better than Dunkin’ Donuts.
This countdown is intended to be a bit different from the other “10 Best” lists, specifically reflecting the places I return to again and again in Queens on my own dime, long after I’ve critiqued them. The food is consistently great; there are just enough choices that I don’t feel railroaded, yet not too many. The dining space is comfortable and the noise level lower than usual. But mainly it’s about the food — things I could eat every day and not get bored.
The grilled cevapcici at Rudar, served with a red-pepper dipping sauce.
10. Rudar Soccer Club — The bar upstairs filled with old men, the fake windows in the basement dining room, the long tables lined with Istrian soccer-playing immigrants and their completely Americanized offspring, plus stick-to-your-ribs fare like the bean-and-smoked-meat soup called minestra s kobasicom, and the pint-size skinless sausages known as cevapcici make this former factory in an obscure location a favorite. 34-01 45th Street, Long Island City, Queens, 718-786-5833
9. O Lavrador — Stick to the barroom (the gnarled wooden door on the left), get a bucket of Portuguese Sagres beer, and a handful of cod fritters (bar menu only), while you contemplate the chalkboard specials, many featuring sea creatures incorporated into magnificent stews or paella-type rice formulations. 138-40 101st Avenue, Jamaica, Queens, 718-526-1526
8. Cheburechnaya — Find fatty meat kebabs (yay, lamb ribs!) grilled over a charcoal trough as you watch, turnovers bursting with potatoes and meat, rice pilafs, and random other Uzbek and Russian recipes, ably and consistently produced, and washed down with tumblers of vodka at this replica Silk Road teahouse. 92-09 63rd Drive, Rego Park, Queens, 718-897-9080
7. M & T Restaurant — This Qingdao restaurant will change your notions of what Chinese food is. The bready bao, for example, are made of fine cornmeal, the dumplings stuffed with loofah, while a shocking dish on the specials menu pairs beef tendon with shrimp. The chef is always ready to try a new dish out on you, if you ask. 44-09 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing, Queens, 718-539-4100
6. BCD Natural Tofu Restaurant — Sunnyside doesn’t get any sunnier than this: a Korean place that makes its own tofu, then deploys it in a series of silken soondubu (soft bean-curd) stews. Ask for it spicy and the staff will gladly comply. 40-06 Queens Boulevard, Sunnyside, Queens, 718-706-0899
A very happy crew of diners finishes up their meal at M & T.
Your hero is made to order at Leo’s Latticini. Take it to the garden to chow down.
5. Mustang Thakali Kitchen — Though this restaurant steps away from the Jackson Heights subway station specializes in the food of a single Nepalese region, it manages to survey the entire Himalayan menu, which contains all sorts of quirky breads and meats (but not yak, alas!), but also offers lots for the vegetarian — including sel roti (a bread shaped like a big ring) and bhatmas chiura (beaten rice and toasted soybeans). 74-14 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, Queens, 718-898-5088
4. Leo’s Latticini — “Mama” is now sadly deceased, but “Mama’s Special” lives on: a hero fabricated from assorted cold cuts, the store’s freshly made mozzarella, and pickled mushrooms and chile peppers. Buy your long sandwich in the cheese store and then go down the block to the bakery, where indoor seating is available — there’s also a glorious garden out back with additional tables. 46-02 104th Street, Corona, Queens, 718-898-6069
3. Chao Thai — This Thai restaurant a stone’s throw from the LIRR tracks offers a pan-national menu with an emphasis on fiery Isaan food. While avoiding the hubbub of Sripraphai, it delivers a similar bill of fare, with many items produced in better versions. Love the bar snacks, too, like sour sausage offered with basil, mint, peanuts, and pickled veggies. 85-03 Whitney Avenue, Elmhurst, Queens, 718-424-4999
2. Dosa Hutt — Many had their first taste of wonderful South Indian cooking at this pancake house adjacent to a Hindu temple dedicated to Ganesh, and the quality has remained high. My favorites at this strictly vegetarian (and mainly vegan) spot include the butter masala dosa dripping with ghee, and uppma, a creamy porridge studded with nuts, kari leaves, and black mustard seeds. 45-63 Bowne Street, Flushing, Queens, 718-961-5897
1. Golden Shopping Mall — This bi-level warren of authentic Chinese food stalls from many regions never ceases to amaze me with the variety of cuisines it offers, and the somewhat bedraggled appearance makes you feel like you’re actually in China. The stall from Xi’an (No. 36) has already spawned branches in two boroughs, and the one from Sichuan (No. 31) produces chile-oiled salads that will blow the top of your head off. Take time to explore the dozen or so other options, and don’t neglect the upper floor (at street level). 41-28 Main Street, Flushing, Queens
The soothing uppma at Dosa Hutt.