Best restaurants in Queens
The owners of Bar Henry branch out to Queens with this 40-seat Mexican eatery, specializing in the regional cuisine of Cintalapa, Chiapas. Brothers Cosme and Luis Aguilar, the chef and GM respectively, pay homage to their late mother with traditional plates, including some based on her recipes, such as chicken mole and cochinito chiapaneco (guajillo-marinated baby pork ribs). The white-painted spot features a garden and works from Queens artists.
Husband-and-wife team Joshua and Heidy Smookler have answered your ramen prayers. After causing a food-world frenzy with their commercially and critically acclaimed pop-up noodle dinners, the cooking couple (Per Se and Buddakan, respectively) are going permanent with a full-time ramen den capped at 22 seats, ensuring that the duo can engage with each guest.
Woodside, Queens, bustles on, but this worn Irish pub stays the same. Well-lubricated old-timers line the front bar, while the wood-paneled dining room—made all the more classic with stained-glass adornment—recalls an honest age of prechain family dining. Irish-American pub fare like steak, roast beef and shepherd’s pie dominate the menu, but it’s the renowned burger that justifies the trek: loosely formed from freshly ground New York strip, broiled to a perfect char and simply decorated with lettuce and tomato—cheese and raw onion optional. In a city lousy with buzzworthy patties, this simple warhorse is still among the best.
The congenial, busy owners of this Mexican joint make their own fresh masa (corn dough) from grain soaked and ground on-site. This means tacos of spicy skate that's been tucked into ethereal corn blankets for you, and for the kids—if the timing is right (try late morning or early afternoon)—the spectacle of a bright green machine spewing out tortillas. Once the show's over, grab a table and share a mound of guac and chips, delicate mole-bathed chicken enchiladas or fluffy, well-spiced tamales.
The original M. Wells was like a drug in short supply. Just after we got hooked on its eccentric, carnivorous fare and riveting penchant for excess (a 24-ounce burger, a menu abounding with caviar and foie), the renegade LIC diner gave up its lease, and one of the most exciting restaurants New York had seen in years disappeared. Quirk power couple Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis opened a more subdued venture—MoMA PS1 ‘s lunchtime cafeteria, M. Wells Dinette—in 2012. But M. Wells Steakhouse is their full-fledged return, with a big-ticket vengeance.
Descend into the underground portion of the Golden Shopping Mall, where vendors sell food and other goods in individual stalls, and work your way to this spot to find the ‘Chinese hamburgers’—cumin-accented lamb on homemade griddle cakes—which are among the authentic dishes offered.
When you reserve a table, bear in mind that this wood-beamed restaurant is a rare Queens spot where diners are known to dress for dinner. Service is appropriately suave, though the waiter’s absurdly long recitation of specials veers into Monty Python territory. Still, whatever he brings out is likely to be good. Salads, pizzas and pastas are nicely put together; zuppa di pesce and lamb shank are richly flavorful. The house-made hazelnut gelato makes a lovely nightcap.
Greek-American chef Michael Psilakis made his name repping his Hellenic roots, diving into the country's coastal fare at his uptown joints, Kefi and Fish Tag. So it's no wonder the TV toque (star of BBC America's No Kitchen Required) headed to Little Greece for this modern Mediterranean tavern.
Serious java draws caffeine fiends to this airy café, which also specializes in grilled-cheese sandwiches. While the pedigreed beans—from Tarrytown, New York’s Coffee Labs Roasters—are brewed with Hario V60 drip cones and a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine, there’s no coffee-snob tude here.
Thai specialties here are considered among the city's best— and the sprawling back patio is pretty killer, too. Distract tots from the gurgling fountain with fried chive dumplings and subtly flavored coconut rice. Like it spicy? Try ground pork–laden drunken noodles or whole red snapper slathered in garlic, chili and lime.