Best food in Rego Park, Queens

Get to know the unique cuisine of Jewish Central Asia.

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  • Photographs: Lizz Kuehl

Photographs: Lizz Kuehl

Cheburechnaya
She ain't pretty, but this cafeteria-esque eatery provides a perfect primer for Bukharian grub. Cheburechnaya is the most mainstream of the area's restaurants (read: there are friendly English-speaking waitresses who will let you know if you're about to order beef brains). The specialty is chebureki—fried pockets of bubbly dough stuffed with various meats and vegetables ($1.85--$2.25)—but don't miss out on other regional specialties, like seared, smoky cubes of lamb fat ($3). 92-09 63rd Dr between Austin and Wetherole Sts (718-897-9080)

 Tandoori Food and Bakery
Tandoori comes alive on Saturday nights, when the locals shake off Shabbes with live music and plenty of vodka. Between spirited toasts, explore the menu, which reflects the cuisine's fascinating range of influences—from Russian and Indian to Middle Eastern. We like the restorative shurpa ($4.50), a bowl of simple, satisfying beef broth with meat, root veggies and chickpeas. Tandoori's flaky samsa ($2)—a cousin of the samosa, here filled with lamb and baked in a clay oven—are the best in the 'hood. 99-04 63rd at 99th St (718-897-1071)

Carmel
The intoxicating scents of coffee beans and raw garlic hang in the air at this 25-year-old grocery, a kind of micro Sahadi's. All of the Middle Eastern dips are made in-house: Load up on shoug, a pungent hot-pepper chutney ($2.25). Just above the olive bar you'll see pans of homemade burekas, stuffed with mild pot cheese, mashed spicy potato or spinach. Grab a bag and go nuts: They're just 75 a pop. 64-27 108th St between 64th Rd and 65th Ave (718-897-9296)

R&
This gleaming kosher supermarket is a windfall for frum (observant) and secular foodies alike. A massive display of smoked fish is the first distraction. Joining the standard sturgeon and salmon are dried sprats ($5.99 per pound), typically eaten as a salty beer snack. Ask nicely and the clerk will (begrudgingly) show you how to tear off the head, squeeze out the guts and gnaw at the dismembered—and delicious!—carcass. In the back, you'll find barrels of pickled goodies, like whole herrings ($2.99 each) and hot-pink heads of cabbage ($1.99 per pound). 63-64 108th St between 63rd Dr and 64th Ave (718-897-3600)

Fortuna
White tablecloths and sparkling chandeliers suggest a finer dining experience, but a stage—bookended by wobbly speakers—and a disco ball dangling from a ceiling fan reveal this Bukharian joint's true colors. Like Tandoori, Fortuna is a madhouse on Saturday nights. If you don't fancy the mayhem, visit on a quieter Sunday afternoon, when you can sample plov (a savory rice dish tossed with lamb and carrot; $6.95) and skewered veal liver ($4). 64-06 108th St between 64th Ave and 64th Rd (718-896-6661)

Nagilah Market
This dusty, sprawling market has an unkempt charm that reminds us of the Bowery's chaotic kitchen supply stores. You'll be greeted by the overwhelming aroma of dried tea leaves, and rows of bins brimming with grains, dried fruits and nuts. But it's the display of bagged spices—like cardamom pods, sumac and preserved limes—that is most alluring. 63-69 108th St between 63rd Dr and 64th Ave (718-268-2626)

Berezka
Part with a nickel for the Yeshiva boys collecting tzedakah (charity) outside this long, narrow market. Berezka occupies the southern end of the stretch of 108th Street known as "Bukharian Broadway," but unlike most of the neighboring businesses, it isn't strictly kosher. To wit: The shop's greatest draw is the collection of Eastern European pork and beef sausages (prices top out at about $10 a pound). The fat-stippled links are stacked in an enticing pyramid within a glass case near the register; try the intensely spiced Georgian-style varieties, with the color and pleasantly chewy texture of black licorice. 64-51 108th St at 65th Ave (no phone)


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