No need to get in an airplane to give your kids a taste of cuisines from a wide array of cultures, including Burmese, Malaysian, Russian, and Pakistani. Just hop on the subway to Queens to dip your spoon in the melting pot!
Time was when you couldn’t get a kid (an American kid, anyway!) to put something in his mouth he couldn’t pronounce, but these days local young foodies are planning to open their own high end restaurants (like this Long Island girl) and preparing croquembouche for their middle school classmates. Why not encourage your own budding young Master Chef Junior to sample the array of world cuisines on offer right in New York City?
Take a jaunt through Queens with your kids in tow for some neighborhood fun and a sample of tastes both sweet and savory from an array of cultures.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban population in the world. It’s not surprising, then, that it has become a go-to for tourists and New Yorkers alike when craving traditional ethnic foods.
Whether your little one is a picky eater or an adventurous foodie, we have pulled together a list of our favorite restaurants and meals for little taste buds.
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40-42 College Point Blvd., Flushing; 718-353-8188
Crazy Crab serves a variety of seafood dishes with a Burmese flare. Those looking for a truly unique experience should try the soups and veggies—including the Burmese Tea Salad. Try offering tastes of various dishes to encourage children to sample several items.
33-07 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria; 718-545-8666
This Greek restaurant is a staple of the neighborhood and has become so popular that the owners recently opened an East Village location. Try fried calamari—it’s a house specialty and children will enjoy dipping the calamari rings in marinara sauce (call them “Italian French fries” to up the kid appeal!). If you’re little one doesn’t like seafood, try the patates fournou, lemon roasted potatoes. Fried cheese is another popular side dish (how could it not be, right?).
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39-26 61st St., Woodside; 718-672-9500
Family owned and operated since 1993, Masala serves up unique chicken tikka dishes. Start your meal with a samosa, a stuffed pastry with vegetable or meat. Then, order naan to accompany your main dish. Be sure to spoon up cooling yogurt if your little one complains that the meal is too spicy.
13517 40th Road, Flushing; 718-353-2901
Since the 1990s, this niche restaurant has been accommodating those interested in Malaysian-Chinese food. Start your meal off with satay, grilled chicken or beef skewers and one of the most popular Malaysian dishes. Roti canai, a flat bread, can be eaten alongside to make a meal for a little one. Congee or porridge is a great option for older kids who may not like traditional curries. For an exotic, “I-can’t-believe-I-tried-it” dessert with a cool factor for kids, order a slightly sweet glass of soy milk with grass jelly (pictured)—in Malaysia, it’s often referred to as a “Michael Jackson,” and the jelly cubes are made from a leaf called Mesona chinensis, or xiancao.
Chela & Garnacha
33-09 36th Ave., Astoria; 917-832-6876
After three years slinging tacos from the Mexico Blvd food truck, the Loaeza family has their own restaurant in Astoria. Look for traditional items such as tacos and flautas to get started. Quesadillas promise to be a hit as well.
168-25B Hillside Ave., Jamaica; 718-298-5696
A mixture of flavors is at the heart of Pakistani food including the biryani selections. These mixed rice dishes that include saffron, meats, and vegetables are sure to please. Picky eaters can choose a plain chicken mixture while those with more adventurous palates might opt for goat.
66-21 Fresh Pond Road and Palmetto Street, Ridgewood; 718-366-6226
Most people associate meat, potatoes, and cabbage with Polish food. Although this restaurant offers diverse options with French, Italian, German, and Russian influences, the Polish classics stand out including kielbasa, a sausage that comes in dozens of varieties and made with pork, beef, turkey, lamb, or veal. Most children won’t know the difference between these sausages and traditional hot dogs. Other options include pierogi, yummy dumplings filled with meat, potato, or cheese (NYC kids accustomed to eating street-vendor knishes will get the finger-food appeal). Encourage picky eaters to taste cheese pierogi with a bit of butter.
98-98 Queens Blvd., Rego Park; 718-263-4444
Most tykes won’t turn down shashlik, marinated lamb on skewers that is similar to Shish kebab (veggies included!). Vstrecha, serving traditional Tashkent fare, makes its menu more family-friendly by offering versions of this traditional dish with chicken or steak.
63-88 Woodhaven Blvd., Rego Park; 718-894-8084
Owned and operated by the Barnes Family since 1959, London Lennie’s has become one of the premier seafood restaurants in Queens. Start your anxious eater out with fish tacos. Made with mahi mahi, these tacos don’t have a strong “fishy” taste and are complemented by fresh pico de gallo, which many may already be familiar with.
Spicy & Tasty
39-07 Prince St., Flushing; 718-359-1601
Well known for their cold Szechuan noodles, try ordering several items for the table to allow your child to try many different options. Dumplings or the wonton in chicken soup will already be familiar to most and rice balls are sure to please. Consider the duck dishes if your child would like to move outside his or her comfort zone.
136-55 Roosevelt Ave., Unit D, Flushing; 718-813-9107
Located in the heart of Flushing, Taipei Hong serves traditional dishes like Gua-bao, a steamed bun filled with pork belly, diced veggies, and crushed peanuts. Parents shouldn’t expect to get filled from eating one; but for children, these snack-sized sandwiches make a great lunch.
64-13 39th Ave., Woodside; 718-899-9599
Although Thai food is known for dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge, little eaters do not need to be overwhelmed. Pad thai is a bright but not-too-spicy dish. Those with peanut allergies, however, should watch out. Parents of picky eaters can request a non-spicy variety of most dishes.
Bun-Ker Vietnamese Restaurant
46-63 Metropolitan Ave., Ridgewood; 718-386-4282
Vietnamese recipes use lemongrass, ginger, mint, and basil—all flavors that children may not have yet been exposed to. Offer them Bánh Mì sandwiches to give them a taste of Vietnamese food in a form they’re already familiar with (as well as various options!). Other top options for kids include grilled lemongrass short ribs.
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