Colombian Food, Italian Ice & Taiwanese Snacks Along the 7 Train

There are plenty of great Asian restaurants in Flushing, but the most impressive site I’ve seen there is the food court at the New World Mall.

Mention of the 7 train elicits mixed reactions. Only 6 of the 22 stations connect to other lines and it’s the only subway line that serves Manhattan and Queens (it does not go out to Brooklyn). On September 13, 2015 the first new station of the new millennium opened on the 7 line near the Javits Center. This is very convenient for anyone arriving by boat from New Jersey.

Queens is known as NYC’s most international borough. Over 1,000,000 of the more than 2,300.000 residents are said to be foreign born. If you like food, culture and some nature, you can spend an exciting day along the 7 train.

During my most recent trip, I started at the new 34 St-Hudson Yards station and took the 7 train to 82 St-Jackson Hts. I’ve been to and blogged about this area before. There’s such an amazing selection of Latin American food along Roosevelt Ave. For lunch, I chose La Pequeña Colombia on the corner of 83rd & Roosevelt. I asked their friendly staff what seafood dishes people eat in Colombia and they suggested Pargo Rojo Marinado, which is more prominent is the coastal areas. $27.95 may sound like a lot of money, but most people would not need an appetizer or dessert with this entrée. It’s a whole red snapper over a bed of seafood in a creamy white sauce. A side of yuca with rice is only $3.95 and makes an excellent addition to the sauce after you’ve finished the seafood.

After a meal like that, some walking is in order. I did not have room for any of their hearty desserts and you may not either. My next destination was Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It’s the fourth largest park in NYC and if you are using the 7 train, there’s a couple different ways to get there. I chose to take the train two stops from 90 St-Elmhurst Av to 103 St-Corona Plaza. Although this is a bit west of the park entrance on 111th Street, you can pass by The Lemon Ice King of Corona if you just walk east to 108th St and go 12 (short) blocks south to 52nd Ave. They are open all year round and have more than 30 flavors. Small cups cost $1.50 each. They do not mix flavors, so it’s worth buying a few different small cups to sample the flavors.

From there, you can walk east on 52nd Ave to 111th Street, which will put you near the main entrance to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It’s more exciting in the warmer months, but you can still spend hours there in the winter. If you go to the nearby museums, you can spend days.

My last stop in the park was the Unisphere. From there, the 111 St and Mets-Willets Point stops along the 7 train are just a short walk north. The one you take will depend on whether or not you are going east or west. The last stop to the east is Flushing-Main St, which will leave you in the heart of what some call the largest Chinatown in NYC. It’s certainly the largest in Queens and is different from the more famous Chinatown in Manhattan in that most of the people there are Mandarin speaking.

There are plenty of great Asian restaurants in Flushing, but the most impressive site I’ve seen there is the food court at the New World Mall. Although the Chinatown in Flushing is generally not as crowded as the one in Manhattan, the food court in the New World Mall is. There’s an amazing selection of Asian food there and it really did remind me of my numerous trips there. There’s bubble tea, Korean, Thai and everything in between, but I always liked Tea Twitter. I first discovered them at the Queens International Night Market and they have excellent Taiwanese fast food. I’ve had salt & pepper chicken at numerous places (including Taichung and Taipei) and theirs is as good as any.

Flushing gives you the advantage of two different transit options back to Manhattan. The 7 train ends in Flushing and the Long Island Railroad has a stop there as well. From Flushing-Main St. you can be at Penn Station in 20 minutes with only a couple stops between if you take the LIRR.

If you follow my itinerary, you can eat Asian, European and Latin American food and also visit an iconic park in less than one full day using one subway line. Of course you should make sure there is no construction on the 7 line, especially if you are visiting on a weekend. The subway would cost you $11 ($2.75 X 4 rides) if you start and finish in Manhattan. Taking the Long Island Railroad back from Flushing will cost more than the subway and unlike the subway, the cost varies depending on when you are riding. On weekends, the City Ticket is the best option at $4.25 one way.

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Chinatown & Chelsea

I woke up to an amazing view of Pike Street and the Manhattan Bridge. Chinatown is to the west and if you are lucky enough to get a room that faces the Manhattan Bridge, you can have a wonderful view while showering.

I woke up to an amazing view of Pike Street and the Manhattan Bridge. New York City (especially Manhattan hotels) don’t have the best reputation as far as offering value for your money is concerned, but I highly recommend the Howard Johnson Soho. It has a modern look and convenient location, with East Broadway (F train) being the nearest subway stop. Chinatown is to the west and if you are lucky enough to get a room that faces the Manhattan Bridge, you can have a wonderful view while showering.

My first dim sum was at the Golden Unicorn back in June. I had a Chinese friend to guide me along and my last food tour started at Jing Fong. At the suggestion of Simon Tung (from Macaron Parlour), I tried 88 Palace, which is less than five minutes from the HoJo Soho. Although 88 Palace is not as well-known as Jing Fong or Golden Unicorn, it was extremely crowded when I arrived (just before noon). Tables are round and the place gets way too crowded to let any seats go to waste. Unless you are in a large group, plan on sharing a table with people you’ve never met.

The servers come around with their carts and you pick what you want. They can offer a basic description, but it’s way too busy for any of the staff to spend too much time on one person. I ate the things that I enjoyed the other times I had dim sum, most of which were made with shrimp. Like the other two times, I managed to spend under $20.

One of my favorite ice cream shops is Ice and Vice, which is just a couple blocks east of the East Broadway stop on the F line. That was my next destination. They have a very eclectic selection, but I narrowed it down to three flavors: tea dance, opium den and love & hate. As the names suggest, they tend to get creative with the ingredients. I enjoyed all three, but was upset that they discontinued gold digger, which was an olive oil and kalamansi sorbet. When I jokingly complained, I was told that it just wasn’t that popular.

Welcome to Chinatown Manhattan 12-27-2015

From East Broadway, I took the F train up to 23rd street for some snacking and shopping. La Maison du Macaron is just outside of the 23rd Street F M train stop as well as the PATH. Their flavors change, which can be good and bad. No blood orange or mango this time, but they had speculoos, which I’d never seen there before.

Chinatown Manhattan 12-27-2015

I’d read about LA Burdick before and wanted to try their chocolates. I went there next and bought a box of nine. When I saw their desserts, I wanted to try. I had a difficult time deciding between chocolate lemon and hazelnut orange cakes, so I ordered both. I had to wait a few minutes until one of the few tables became available. LA Burdick gets very crowded and has an upscale feel. Finishing two pieces of cake was not a problem since (like the chocolates I bought) they were small. Both were good enough to make me want to visit again.

My next (and final) stop was the Gansevoort Market, which I just discovered at the beginning of December 2015. Most of my favorite things are packed inside that small market. Luzzo’s Pizza, Royce Chocolates and Dana’s Bakery have stands there. There’s also a ceviche bar, creperie and gelateria as well as Thai, Mediterranean and other food options. I got pizza from Luzzo’s as well as a box of macarons from Dana’s and called it a day.

Eating Along the L Train & Going for a Boat Ride

As enjoyable as a walk around the East Village always is, riding the East River Ferry at night was the highlight of the day. I hope to visit Williamsburg next year and go further into Brooklyn on the L train as well.

During my first visit to Williamsburg, I walked across the Williamsburg Bridge and had lunch at Motorino. It was January 2015 and the weather was so cold that both my iPad and iPhone shut off. I managed to get some nice pictures, but it was not the most comfortable experience. Like much of the travel I do, I had an urge and was not going to let cold weather get in the way.

For my second visit to Williamsburg, all I had to wear was a t-shirt and light jacket. It was around 50 degrees the day after Christmas. I remember it being warm like that in Cleveland around December 2006, but for a lifelong East Coast guy, that’s still a rarity.

I started by taking the L train from 6th Ave to Bedford Ave. Normally, when I take the L train, I get off at 1 Av to visit my favorite neighborhood (East Village). This time, I took it one more stop (into Brooklyn). As soon as I arrived in Williamsburg, I realized it warranted further exploration. The area looked “up and coming.”

I stopped for lunch at Fornino which had been on my list of pizzerias to try since earlier in the year. I was there for their pizza, but they had some interesting appetizers and I had a friend to share with.

We started with eggplant rustica, then had baked clams, followed by portabella mushrooms (with goat cheese) and finally, a margherita pizza. For dessert, we shared the lemon & olive oil cake with strawberry sorbet. Nothing went to waste and I would be interested in trying their Greenpoint location next time I’m in that area.

Walking east on North 7th Ave will lead you to Woops (on Driggs Ave). They have around a dozen French macaron flavors and the place gets pretty crowded. Konditori (Swedish Expresso) has a location on North 7th Ave as well.

Artists & Fleas Williamsburg Brooklyn 12-26-2015
Pin Your Home City

West of the Bedford Ave stop on North 7th Ave. is Artists & Fleas’ Williamsburg location (there’s another inside the Chelsea Market). Compared to the Cheslea Market, Williamsburg was much less crowded. I bought my favorite necklace (preserved dragonfruit) from Glitter Limes at the Chelsea location last year and it’s still my favorite.

East River from East River Park in Williamsburg Brooklyn 12-26-2015

East River Park is northwest of Artists & Fleas and provides some great photo ops. It’s not as impressive at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, but still worth a visit. Oddfellows Ice Cream is along Kent Ave, but they were closed for the holidays.

For a light snack, we stopped at Rosarito Fish Shack. The place looks very interesting from the outside and the same is true of the interior. We shared a salmon ceviche as well as the carne asada tacos (each order comes with two).

woman looking out at Manhattan from Williamsburg Brooklyn 12-26-2015
The East River Ferry Arrives

The East River Ferry Terminal is northwest of Oddfellows. I decided that this would be a good (first) time to take a boat across the East River. It was getting cold outside and neither my friend, nor I felt like walking back to Bedford Ave to catch the L train. While waiting for the ferry, we walked around the Northside Piers and took some pictures. While walking, we saw a man showing his friends around explaining how back in the 1990s, cab drivers often refused to take people to Williamsburg. I heard a similar story while walking around Gantry Plaza State Park a couple months earlier.

East River Ferry Terminal in Williamsburg Brooklyn 12-26-2015
Northside Pier

Most of the East River Ferry stops are in Brooklyn. There is one (Long Island City) in Queens and two in Manhattan. Our choices were to go to either East 34th Street or Wall Street. We chose the first boat that arrived (Wall Street). The ride is quick. In our case, it stopped in South Williamsburg, DUMBO, then Wall Street. Although a ferry ride is more than double the cost of a subway or bus ride, it’s much more scenic. We got to ride under the BMW (or WMB since we were going south) bridges. It was dark outside, so the city was well lit.

It’s easy to get the M15 bus north from Water Street, which is just two short blocks west of the ferry stop at Wall Street. Our destination was the East Village (my favorite neighborhood). The bus stops at East 8th Street (Saint Mark’s Place) and 1st Ave. We stopped at Macaron Parlour at ended up getting advice from Simon Tung on where to go for dim sum in Chinatown.

potato shrimp at Ramen Setagaya East Village 12-26-2015
Potato Shrimp at Ramen Setagaya

There are great places to eat all along 1st Avenue, but 2nd Ave has plenty as well. After you cross 2nd Ave, you can have gelato at DF Mavens, Belgian fries at Friterie, bubble tea at CoCo Fresh Tea & Juice and ramen at Ramen Setagaya without even making it halfway to 3rd Ave.

As enjoyable as a walk around the East Village always is, riding the East River Ferry at night was the highlight of the day. I hope to visit Williamsburg next year and go further into Brooklyn on the L train as well.

 

This time, I’m not in charge!

I’m usually the one making all the plans and this weekend was the total opposite. I was following someone else’s plan. It was not better or worse, just totally different. Like Indian restaurants, I have a nice time when someone takes me, but I would not likely go for Dim Sum by myself.

Earlier this month, I was invited to go to NYC on an overnight trip for a friend’s birthday. I’m used to being in charge, but this time, we followed her itinerary. We rode from the Sand Casino in Bethlehem, PA to Chinatown, Manhattan in a limo and I only knew my friend and her employee. The ride went extremely quick and before I knew it, we were passing the Newport Mall, where I normally park my car and get the PATH train into Manhattan. I hadn’t driven under the Holland Tunnel in years and the last couple times I did, I could have gotten through the tunnel faster on foot. This time was different. Before too long, we were at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant in Chinatown. 
 
 
All I knew about Dim Sum was that it was Chinese snacks/appetizers. Although I skipped the chicken feet, pork dishes and anything spicy, I really enjoyed it. I was enjoying not having to come up with a plan. I was VERY full by the time we got the bill. I was expecting my friend to ask me for $40 or $50, but she said “$14 please” and at first I thought it was a joke. We were in probably the most expensive city in America and I had a pretty amazing lunch for $14! This trip was off to a good start.
 
Since my friend runs bus trips into Chinatown from Bethlehem, PA a couple times every year, she knows the area. We went on a bit of a walking tour and she did some shopping. Hey, this is what I do when I’m showing people around………..”hey I need to go get some of this, some of that!”
 
 
Since none of us could eat anymore, everyone wanted to shop. I couldn’t eat anymore, so with my hour of free time, I walked to the Lower East Side and got some macarons from Bisous Ciao. One box for me, one for my friend’s birthday. If I had to choose 1 favorite macaron, it’s the salted caramel from Bisous Ciao.
 
My next destination was the East Village, which is probably my favorite neighborhood since my cousin in law gave me a walking tour last year. Macaron Parlour was my destination. I got a box for me and a box for the birthday girl (lady).
 
I had to walk quickly back to Little Italy, where everyone had to meet the limo to take us up to Harlem. There were a total of 8 people in the limo and I was the only one familiar with Harlem. My friend wanted to have dinner at a “soul food” restaurant and her friend suggested Amy Ruth’s
 
Although it was not my birthday and the only thing anyone wanted my help with was the subway, I insisted that if they are going to visit Harlem, they have to at least see one historical site. Nobody disagreed and we ended up spending a couple hours at the Apollo Theater.
 
Michael Kimmel was there signing books and I ended up leaving with a signed copy of Angry White Men. The Women of the World Festival was also wrapping up there and we watched Michelle Williams speak about depression. It was a very moving speech from someone I knew very little about.
 
After dinner at Amy Ruth’s, we took the 2 train to Penn Station and walked to our hotels in Chelsea.
 
The next morning, my friends wanted to go to Bleecker Street. I made different plans to meet my cousin at Norma’s inside the Le Parker Meriden hotel. I never heard of this place, but my cousin (who I rarely see, but appreciates some of the same things I do) lives nearby and wanted to meet there. 
 
I had some TIME TO KILL (that’s a Deep Purple song) before meeting my cousin and I had not been to Astoria in a while. I boarded the N train and took it out to 30 Av. I picked up some of my favorite seafood salad at Titan Foods and then got some baklava at Artopolis bakery. With the little bit of extra time I have, I walked up to Ditmars Blvd and made a left towards Astoria Park. After walking around a bit and taking some pictures, I needed to get the train back to Manhattan. Feeling too tired to walk to the Astoria-Ditmars stop, I got on the Q69 bus.

 

 

 
After brunch with my cousin, I met up with my friends at Port Authority. Although it was not my birthday, my friend got me a box of Royce Chocolates, while they were on Bleecker Street. We took a bus back to the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA. As I was explaining to my cousin over a $27 crepe at  Norma’s, I’m usually the one making all the plans and this weekend was the total opposite. With the exception of my trips to the East Village and Astoria, I was following someone else’s plan. It was not better or worse, just totally different. Like Indian restaurants, I have a nice time when someone takes me, but I would not likely go for Dim Sum by myself.