Best food in East Elmhurst, Queens

Don't miss Queens' overlooked second Chinatown.

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  • Lao Bei; Photographs: Lizz Kuehl

  • Lao Bei

  • Lao Bei

  • Lao Bei

  • New York Supermarket

  • New York Supermarket

Lao Bei; Photographs: Lizz Kuehl

Bappy Sweet
Forget the massive dining palaces in other Chinatowns—here the draw is homey restaurants and markets, each with a regional Asian specialty like this tiny Bengali takeout dessert shop. Bappy stocks elegant little sweets, such as gulab jamun- (six for $5)—spongy doughnuts soaked in rose syrup—or super-rich, coconut-covered barfi ($5), made with condensed milk, chopped pistachios and plenty of sugar. 85-07 Whitney Ave between Broadway and Macnish St (718-458-0626)

Lao Bei Fang Dumpling House
Behind steamy windows, the cook fixes doughy specialties of northern China (he reportedly also sings Chinese opera on slower nights). The English menu will direct you to bowls of hand-pulled noodles (with shredded pork, $4), outstandingly fatty fried-pork-and-chive dumplings ($1.25) and sesame pancake sandwiches stuffed with beef ($1.25). 86-08 Whitney Ave between Macnish and 88th Sts (718-639-3996)

Ayada
The menu of this pretty little Thai restaurant attracted foodies citywide when it opened last year: Not only does it span the culinary regions of Thailand, but it includes some Japanese twists, too, thanks to the owners' experience working in Bangkok's Japanese hotels. Even if you skip the sushi-inspired dishes (like the now-famous raw shrimp appetizer), the spicy, incredibly complex curries (around $7) are still a radical departure from most pad thai--pushing joints. 77-08 Woodside Ave between 77th and 78th Sts (718-424-0844)

Mie Jakarta
One of two Indonesian restaurants on the block, cozy Mie Jakarta specializes in noodles (that's what mie means). You can't go wrong with sweet chicken satays or the gado gado, a salady mix of chopped lettuce, sprouts, nuts and boiled eggs (each $6.50 and covered with sticky peanut sauce). But the best things on the menu are the Indonesian fried noodles called goring and the chicken noodle soups (with wontons, $5.50), which have the perfect mix of sour, salty, sweet and comfort in every slurp. No matter what you order, be sure to add hot sauce! 86-20 Whitney Ave between Macnish and 43rd Sts (718-606-8025)

New York Supermarket
The heart of this neighborly Chinatown is its two groceries, which ring Clement Clarke Moore Homestead Park at Broadway. However, the well-known and beloved Hong Kong Supermarket chain is outdone by this sprawling megastore, stocked with everything from live eels to steamed buns. In addition to any Pan-Asian pantry item, produce or kitchen tool you could ponder, there are beautiful fish (luscious sea bass, $13.99 per pound), tubs of pickled vegetables, sushi, and takeout for ultracheap dinners or snacks, like Chinese-sausage-packed sticky rice ($1.25). 8266 Broadway at 45th Ave (718-803-1233)

Sugar Club
The sassily named Sugar Club does have sweets (plus comics and videos), but the main draw is the savories. Dozens of excellent ready-to-eat-or-reheat Thai dishes are packed to go in containers. Look for the beef curry puffs (four for $3.50) and cold salads like squid or bamboo shoots ($4.50) tossed with chilies, mint, fish sauce and lime. 81-20 Broadway between 81st and 82nd Sts (718-565-9018)


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