When I was called recently for jury duty, foremost on my mind — after hoping I’d be excused — was where I could go for lunch. Nothing takes the sting out of hours of milling about a courthouse hallway like a good meal, but there was a problem: I was serving in Kew Gardens. Though the Queens neighborhood is nearish to some excellent eating enclaves, none were close enough to allow time to get back to hear my fellow jurors’ increasingly outlandish responses to the judge’s questions.
Those serving in Manhattan are in luck (the courthouse is in the middle of Chinatown), and Brooklynites have it easy, too, as they’re summoned to the MetroTech area, with plenty of restaurants and food trucks where they can grab a bite. So where do jurors in NYC’s underdog boroughs — Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island — go when it’s their turn to undertake the civic responsibility? Here are four great options.
Queens — Kew Gardens
Dani’s House of Pizza (81-28 Lefferts Boulevard, Queens; 718-846-2849)
Escape the commotion of Queens Boulevard and head to this pizzeria on Lefferts instead, which is almost suburban in its comparative quiet. Dani’s was opened in 1959, and almost 60 years later, the spot is clearly a community gathering place. Their standard slice comes with a slightly sweet red sauce that’ll please pizza purists, and their pesto slice perks up white pizza with the freshness of basil and plenty of garlic. The space is narrow, and you might have to wait for a seat at the counter, unless you hoof it from the courthouse and beat the lawyers.
Queens — Jamaica
Mataheko (144-07 Jamaica Avenue, Queens; 718-739-3980)
If you’re in the civil court on Sutphin Boulevard, it’s worth visiting Mataheko, which many say serves the best West African cuisine in the city. In chilly weather, go for comforting peanut soup; spice lovers should check out the fiery goat pepper soup. Or try fufu, a Ghanaian staple and a starch that you eat with your fingers and dip into soups and stews. There’s also fried fish, shrimp, and meat kebabs, and vegetarians can fill up on dishes like black-eyed peas with sweet plantains, or koosee akara, a fried bean cake.
Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights (161st Street and Sheridan Avenue, Bronx; 718-930-5711)
Those in the know line up here for street eats, cooked by Fauzia Abdur Rahman. She originally hails from Jamaica, and was named a Vendy Awards finalist in 2008 for her healthy and flavorful cooking. She’s had her cart for twenty years, and makes fusion dishes that incorporate Jamaican, Indian, and Asian flavors. The menu changes daily, but her loyal following does not; upon visiting you might find jerk chicken gyros, beef patties, grilled fish, or curries. Rahman’s desserts, like banana pudding and carrot cake, are also worth the wait.
Beso (11 Schuyler Street, Staten Island; 718-816-8162)
Just across the street from the Richmond County Supreme Court in the St. George neighborhood, you’ll find Beso. This tapas joint also offers sandwiches to go if you’d like to linger outside and take in the views of Lower Manhattan; try the bassa wrap, with fried catfish in a horseradish aioli. The lunch menu also has salads like the arugula y mango, with jamón serrano and manchego, or a range of small plates, including fried goat cheese with honey and roasted corn crab cakes.