As a Queens native, it embarasses me to say that the only time I’ve ever been to Downtown Flushing was in High School when I got my belly button pierced. Since then, and after a cross-China trip I took in 2011, I’ve been yearning to go back and experience it on a different, less painful, level. One of the greatest things about Queens is the opportunity to fully immerse oneself in a different cultural experience, and Downtown Flushing truly delivers. With an array of Asian specialty shops (from tea to comic books) and a plethora of food, this definitely rivals Manhattan’s Chinatown!
We decided to drive in and park in one of the many parking lots around the neighborhood, although you could easily get here by taking the 7 train or LIRR to Main Street. My pre-trip research suggested Jade Asian and Asian Jewels restaurants for excellent dim sum but an Asian co-worker of mine told me we had to try Dong Yi Feng, so that’s where we headed!
Upon entering and noticing the gold and red decor and lazy-suzan tables, I was taken right back to my restaurant experiences in China! We headed up to the huge 2nd floor where the waiter sat us at a large round table, and brought over a high-chair for Sophie. The space was crowded with happy people all enjoying unique (and often identifiable!) delicacies.
The dim sum carts started swarming by and Sophie had a blast watching the parade of food march by. The dim sum ‘deliverers’ all stopped to smile and say hello to her. Unfortunately, Sophie didn’t eat much because her molars were coming in and she’d been rejecting food that week, but the experience was enough to keep her (and any other kid) amused. We tried an eggplant dish (delicious), a scallion egg roll, and an array of shrimp and pork nibbles. I regretted not inviting my co-worker because we felt a little lost on what to choose. I kept looking at other tables with food envy but couldn’t tell what they were eating!
From there, we headed along Main Street and walked in and out of the many shops and malls. We stopped for bubble tea (a MUST in Flushing) and had the most amazing honeydew milk drink ever! It was my husband’s first foray into bubble tea and he was pleasantly surprised.
We found the Golden Shopping Mall (41-28 Main Street) where Xi’an Famous Foods is located. Andrew Zimmern of the Cooking Channel ate here in his Queens episode so we had to check it out! The location was a bit obscure, but we eventually found it in the basement. Once I got down there I checked out the vast array of amazing-looking noodles and dumplings and swore I’d return very soon – but without Sophie. (There was no way we could’ve fit the stroller through that tight space.)
Our last stop was Tai Pan Bakery (37-25 Main Street), a place unlike I had ever seen before! Bins of food lined the counter and patrons walked by selected which sweet or savory treat to eat. From buns, to sandwiches to cakes – everything looked great! After some hard decisions, I settled on the red bean bun which was still warm when I grabbed it! It was sweet, decadent and delicious! It was also was one thing that Sophie couldn’t deny, even with her swollen gums and irritable mood.
Last Bite: Leave your passport at home and head to Downtown Flushing, Queens, for a truly unique cultural experience! Your little one will be entertained all day as you explore different flavors, sights and sounds. Don’t bring anything too bulky that will make it hard to navigate the small spaces (like a big stroller), but definitely bring some courage (and your camera) and be ready to try new things!
Lauren Griffiths is a born and bred New Yorker and a full time working mom. She enjoys traveling, cooking, writing, chasing down celebrity chefs and spending time with her baby girl. She can also moonwalk like nobody’s business.
Additional photos thanks to Yelp.com