While chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain has spent the past 16 years traversing the world (and tasting it one exotic dish at a time), his roots go all the way back to New York City where he commanded the kitchens at restaurants like the Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue, Sullivan’s and Brasserie Les Halles.
With so much of his time spent in New York City, it’s unsurprising that Bourdain has returned to familiar stomping grounds for Season 9, Episode 4 of “Parts Unknown.” After all, New York City is regarded by critics as the “best restaurant city in the world” — and Queens, the largest borough and most ethnically diverse urban area in the world, is the perfect setting to embark on a gastronomic adventure.
Here are 11 places in Queens featured in CNN’s “Parts Unknown.”
11. Corona: Ecuadorian Food Cart
The episode kicks off in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Corona, where Bourdain pays a visit to an Ecuadorian food cart located on the corner of Warren St. and Roosevelt Ave. (off the Junction Blvd. stop on the 7 Train). Here, he chows down on a plate of morcilla (blood sausage), potato cakes and hornado, or “roast pork with sublime, crispy skin straight from heaven.”
A wide array of food carts decorate the neighborhood, and Bourdain notes that they are a “working class favorite” for people coming to and from their daily shifts. Within a mile of these carts, the food options also vary from Tibetan street food to Colombian arepas to Chinese BBQ carts in Flushing.
10. Flushing: Yu Garden Dumpling House
At Yu Garden Dumpling House, located on 46-20 Kissena Blvd. in Flushing, Bourdain tries spicy beef and tripe, boiled pig tongue and tripe (marinated in sugar and soy), lion’s head meatballs (made with pork, ginger and soy), and ground pork soup dumplings.
“Yu Garden dumplings is everything you need in life,” says Bourdain, who visits the Shanghainese restaurant at the suggestion of his friend, a native Queens resident. According to the show, Flushing is the place for amazing Chinese or Korean food — just like home.
9. Long Island City: Mu Ramen
Joshua Smookler — the chef and owner of Mu Ramen (1209 Jackson Ave.) — serves as Bourdain’s culinary tour guide for his next stop. While dining together at Geo Si Gi Restaurant in Flushing, Smookler reveals details about how he started his wildly popular restaurant in Long Island City.
Mu Ramen has come along way since its humble start inside a bagel shop. Restaurant critic Pete Wells of The New York Times noted that it serves the #1 ramen in New York City — a review that Smookler admits made him cry.
8. Long Island City: Casa Enrique
Restauranteur Cosme Aguilar also joins Bourdain and Smookler at Geo Si Gi. Aguilar is the owner of Casa Enrique (5-48 49th Ave.), the only Mexican restaurant in New York City with a Michelin star.
Prior to opening the eatery, Aguilar cooked at home every day for six months, experimenting and trying out different recipes. Although Bourdain doesn’t seem to eat here, we get a glimpse into the variety of dishes that are offered in this Long Island City gem, including enchiladas and sopes (thick corn cakes stacked with toppings).
7. Flushing: Geo Si Gi Restaurant
As previously mentioned, Geo Si Gi Restaurant is located in Flushing, on 152-28 Northern Blvd. The Korean eatery is “high on the list,” says Bourdain, who dines on gamjatang — a pork neck bone soup made with rice cakes, pork belly, kimchi and spicy radish — in addition to a plate of galbi, or grilled short ribs marinated in soy, garlic and sesame oil. Bourdain calls it “meat candy.”
6. Woodhaven: Neir’s Tavern
Photograph Courtesy of Neir’s Tavern
The next stop in the episode is Neir’s Tavern, located on 87-48 78th St. in Woodhaven. It’s described as the “most famous place you’ve never heard of,” with a history dating back to the 1820s, when Queens was still mostly farmland. At that time, the manager of a race track (the Union Course) opened the first iteration of the tavern, “The Blue Pump Room,” to accommodate guests who visited his track.
In later years, the tavern was renamed “The Old Abbey” and “The Union Course Tavern.” Following the race track’s closure in 1898, the Neir family spruced up the establishment by adding a bowling alley, a ball room and a hotel; it was then renamed “Neir’s Social Hall.”
Despite its long history (and the fact that “Goodfellas” was shot here), Neir’s Tavern’s tucked away location still makes it a hidden gem.
5. Corona: Evelia Coyotzi Tamales
Back in Corona, we get a glimpse into the daily life of Evelia Coyotzi, a Queens resident who operates a tamale cart on Junction Blvd. and Roosevelt Ave. Her day begins at 7pm or 8pm, when she prepares tamales, made of masa, sauce and chicken, as well as elotes (grilled Mexican street corn).
At 4am, she heads out the door to begin her shift, parking her cart right in front of the Junction Blvd. train stop off the 7 Train. During the weekends, she sells around 2,000 tamales.
4. Jackson Heights: Lhasa Fast Food
On 37-50 74th St. in Jackson Heights, Lhasa Fast Food is tucked away in an unlikely location: down a long corridor inside a cellphone store, which is also home to jewelry and luggage shops. According to Yelper Jenny T., the momos (South Asian dumplings) served here “are off the hook.” That’s exactly what Bourdain choose to feast on, in addition to thenthuk (hand-torn noodle soup with chilis and ginger) and shapta (chili-fried beef).
Jackson Heights, as the episode notes, has historically been the first stop for United States immigrants; there’s a big Latino and South Asian presence here, but the newer, Tibetan community has been growing in recent years.
3. The Rockaways: Brisas Del Mar
Further out in Queens, you can find Brisas Del Mar on 9902 Rockaway Beach Blvd. At this Dominican restaurant, Bourdain dines on a plate of rice, beans and plantains while speaking to activist Josmar Trujillo about the history of the Rockaways and the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the neighborhood.
Bourdain describes the Rockaways as “prime ocean front property,” but it “has never been a place where there was a lot of good investment and infrastructure, in any way, to begin with,” says Trujillo. While it originally served as a summer destination for middle class New Yorkers, the neighborhood underwent a major transformation when better roads drew people to the beaches of Long Island.
Housing projects were eventually constructed on the Rockaways, and it quickly became a “dumping ground” for the city (and Robert Moses in particular). After Hurricane Sandy, however, Trujillo notes that a wave of young, urban professionals moved to the Rockaways, potentially to “Brooklynify” it.
2. South Ozone Park: Aqueduct Racetrack
While eating a Jamaican beef patty, Bourdain watches a horse race at the Aqueduct racetrack on 110-00 Rockaway Blvd., South Ozone Park. Constructed near the site of a former conduit for the Brooklyn Waterworks that brought water from Eastern Long Island to the Ridgewood Reservoir, the track opened to the public on September 27, 1894.
Today, it stands as the only racetrack located within New York City limits, with three courses and a total capacity of 40,000. In addition, the Aqueduct Racetrack complex houses the New York Racing Association’s headquarters and features the first and only legal casino in the five boroughs, known as Resorts World New York City.
1. Jamaica: Africana Restaurant
As growing number of immigrants from Africa reside in Jamaica, giving rise to a variety of eateries like Africana Restaurant on 146-12 Liberty Ave. Alongside food and culture writer Sarah Khan, Bourdain samples some Nigerian food from the small, neighborhood restaurant, which opened in 2000.