Come and explore the most multi-cultural neighborhood in all of the United States, have a eat-fest, and spend no more than a dollar!
Start: 73-18 Broadway between 73rd and 74th Sts, Jackson Heights, Queens End: 37-46 74th St between 37th Ave and 37th Rd, Jackson Heights, Queens Time: 2 hours Distance: 1.98 miles
1 Assemble a posse—you’ll need all the extra mouths you can get—and kick things off at Chinese bakeshop Rainbow Bakery(73-18 Broadway between 73rd and 74th Sts, 718-429-0786). What you’ll find on the other side of the store’s multihued sign is just as good as a pot of gold: cheap dim sum–style snacks like soft, sweet white rolls baked with scallions (80¢ each) and dense, fried rice-flour dumplings (80¢ each). The latter look like Scotch eggs and are stuffed with gingery ground pork.
2 Head east along Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights’ frenetic main drag, to another bakery—this one Colombian. Hand over a buck at Mira Cali II Panaderia Y Pasteleria(76-04 Roosevelt Ave between 76th and 77th Sts, 718-779-7175) and you’ll be rewarded with a delicious, doughnut-shaped round of pandebono, a slightly sweet Colombian cheese bread made with yucca flour and mild farmer’s cheese. It’s best enjoyed warm.
3 By the time you reach the Tacos Mi Mexico Lindo truck(Roosevelt Ave at Gleane St and Baxter Ave, no phone), you’ll have an appetite for something more substantial. Order the thick, soft Mexican corn cake known as a sope ($1) with plenty of fixings: refried black beans, creamy avocado sauce and salty white cotija cheese, plus all the salsa, chilies and pickled jalapeños you can pile on. There’s usually a crowd around the truck’s tiny bar, so devour your grub perched on the low brick wall across the street at Manuel De Dios Unanue Triangle.
4 Pause in front of the once-stunning 1924 Italian Renaissance Jackson Triplex Theater(40-31 82nd St at Ithaca St), designed by architect Herbert J. Krapp, who also created such landmark Broadway theaters as the Biltmore and Majestic. Sadly, you won’t be catching a matinee: The triplex shuttered last year.
5 Before you leave raucous Roosevelt Avenue for the sublime streets of Jackson Heights’ Historic District, grab a $1 tamale stuffed with pork mole or chicken and green chilies from one of the tamale lady’s Igloo coolers. You’ll find her at the bottom of the 7-train stairwell at the 82nd St–Jackson Hts station. If she’s not there, get your fix with a mass-produced version stuffed with pork and red or green salsa ($1) at Mexican fast-food joint Bravo Comida Rapida(81-16 Roosevelt Ave between 81st and 82nd Sts, 718-429-6444).
6 You’ll be thankful you brought a few pals along—how else would you be able to sample the nearly dozen antojitos, most under a dollar, at Colombian chainlet Seba Seba(79-28 37th Ave between 79th and 80th Sts, 718-478-4691)? The best deals can be found, once again, at the bakery: Try a mini beef empanada (40¢), sugar-topped fried buñuelos (pictured; $1 each), and the roasted, salted red potato known as papa salada (70¢).
7 While you digest, steer your distended bellies down tree-lined 80th Street for a peek at some prime real estate: The area is famous for its dense blocks of well-maintained Art Deco garden apartments, whose lovingly cared-for stoops sport pastel thickets of blooming bulbs and perfect shrubs. Directly across the street from the entrance to a gray brick apartment building (34-42 80th St between 34th and 35th Aves), peep behind a wrought-iron gate for a view of the complex’s pretty common gardens.
8 Meander your way southwest to Subzi Mandi(72-30 37th Ave at 73rd St, 718-457-1848), a sprawling Indian supermarket. Even if you don’t stock up on heaps of reasonably priced, hard-to-find produce like bitter melon and sacks of bulk spices and grains, grab a fist-size, flaky 50¢ vegetable samosa, pictured, from the case at the checkout counter. You know, to sample the goods.
9 Your gluttony probably has you feeling pretty sluggish. Get a sugary pick-me-up at Maharaja Quality Sweets and Snacks(73-10 37th Ave between 73rd and 74th Sts, 718-505-2680). The shop sells dozens of Indian snacks sold by the pound, like nutty rounds of besan ladoo ($6/lb), made with ghee, ground nuts and chickpea flour. Or try the chocolate burfi ($7/lb), sweet squares of condensed milk dipped in chocolate and topped with edible silver flakes. Not to worry, penny-pincher: You’re not buying in bulk, and a single piece generally weighs out to be under a buck.
10 Conclude your gorgefest at Butala Emporium(37-46 74th St between 37th Ave and 37th Rd, 718-899-5590), whose aisles are filled with Indian newspapers, sleek stainless-steel serving ware ($3–$15), garlands of paper flowers ($15–$20) and copper bracelets ($5 each). The store is a beautiful collage of colors—especially when viewed through the haze of a serious food coma.