Jackson Heights began as a white middle-class neighborhood designed as a garden oasis and escape from the growing metropolis in Manhattan. However, the original Jackson Heights families eventually found greener grass in the suburbs, leaving empty apartments for sale. When President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which lifted immigration quotas, many immigrants chose to settle in Jackson Heights. Now, this neighborhood is one of the most diverse in the city whose residents speak upward of 167 languages.
Diversity Plaza, a center for community in Jackson Heights, is the origin from which all life extends in the neighborhood. Various storefronts and restaurants surround the plaza, which contains seating for locals to gather for meals or conversations. Mayor Bill de Blasio considers Diversity Plaza to be an “epicenter of culture, community, and vibrancy” in Queens. He was right, for ethnic enclaves including Little India, Little Tibet, and Little Colombia are a short walk away.
Many of the ethnic communities within the neighborhood host at least one eatery selling specialties from their home country. Whether craving Nepalese fare, Colombian classics, or Indian specialties, Jackson Heights offers more than 25 cuisines sandwiched within the 300 acres of the neighborhood. This guide sorts through all the hidden gems, well-known restaurants, and hole-in-the-wall joints for the best food in Jackson Heights, Queens.
Steps from the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station is Tibetan eatery Khampa Kitchen. Mr. Bachan and Ms. Dechen, founders of this New York Times Critic’s Pick eatery, cook recipes preserved by their families for generations. Bachan’s family, natives of the Kham region of Tibet, even sends packages of dried herbs they collect to Khampa Kitchen. Dishes such as Lhasa Noodles, a simple beef noodle soup, and fried beef ribs harbor strong traditional Tibetan flavors.
The dish Khampa Poethek harnesses the strong flavors of these herbs. The dish, a meat pie filled with beef and accented by chives, is typically served in a Tibetan home during a celebration. Chef Dechen crimps the edges of the dish to create a braidlike pattern. Although Dechen and her husband cannot currently share this meal during celebrations with relatives in Tibet, her meticulous handiwork is almost a way of sharing it with diners. The 30-minute wait for the dish allows for diners to try other Tibetan dishes in the meantime.