Queens Restaurant Week — actually two weeks — launches Monday and lasts until Halloween, and it offers eaters the opportunity to get better acquainted with this vast and super-diverse borough. (And at Queens prices — prix fixe lunches will run you $14, dinners a mere $28.) Nearly 100 restaurants are participating; here, we share our best bets for a continent-hopping, neighborhood-spanning dining experience.
Long Island City
If you’re apprehensive about leaving your Manhattan comfort zone, Hibino allows you to dip a tentative toe into the Queens waters without traveling deep into the borough. This offshoot of a popular Cobble Hill spot serves Kyoto-style Japanese food in a cozy, friendly space. A highlight of the menu is the collection of obanzai, traditional side dishes that change daily, in tune with the seasons. Recent obanzai include panko-crusted yam with garlic mayo, and mackerel and tofu with daikon simmered in a soy sake sauce.
Its famous beer garden isn’t the only gift Astoria has received from the Czechs. Koliba, a Czech/Slovak restaurant with the look of a ski lodge, is an idyllic place to pass a brisk evening. The fare is hearty and cheesy — check out the langos, garlicky bread topped with cheese, or the potato spaetzle with sheep cheese and bacon. It’s a pleasantly pungent pasta that’ll be tough to finish on your own. Bring a group to help you, and sample a few Czech beers, too.
If you have a Californian or Texan in your life, you’re likely constantly working to disprove their assertion that New York has a dearth of good Mexican. Take them to Taqueria Coatzingo, where corn tortillas bust with ingredients like tongue, chorizo, or pineapple-marinated pork, and a generous dollop of creamy guacamole and cilantro. Cemitas, a specialty of the Puebla region, come layered with cheese, lettuce, peppers, beans, and your choice of meat; wash your meal down with horchata or tamarind juice.
Queens is kind to carnivores, Elmhurst’s La Fusta especially. The city’s first Argentine spot is still going strong, and its most popular item is the mixed grill: a massive pile of skirt steak, short ribs, chorizo, blood sausage, sweetbreads, and chinchulines (intestine), cooked over charcoal and served with a tangy, garlicky chimichurri sauce.
La Baraka lies beyond the reach of the subway, but Queens is about adventure, so consider this a good opportunity to take the LIRR to Little Neck for this restaurant’s homey French-Moroccan fare. Dishes from the Algerian-French owner and chef include quiche, escargot, and duck a l’orange, plus merguez sausage and chicken kebabs with peppercorn sauce. The restaurant claims to have been one of the first to introduce couscous to Americans, so don’t neglect to try its take on the grain.
At the heart of the Portuguese micro-neighborhood within Jamaica is O Lavrador, which has been serving Iberian dishes since 1981. Seafood is the highlight, and highlights include the tender, paprika-seasoned octopus; the bacalhau fritters (a Portuguese classic); and the fisherman stews, heaped with shellfish and rice to soak up the fragrant broth. Round out your meal with a very reasonably priced glass of port.