My office moved to Rego Park at the beginning of May, and due to some issues at home I’ve taken to eating lunch out probably 3 days per week on average. I also do some basic food shopping in the area for stuff I need at home. With help from some folks who’ve been here longer, including a definite chowhound, I’ve tried enough things to post something useful. My office is on Queens Blvd near 63rd Drive, and so this is definitely boulevard-centric. This is hardly an exhaustive study, but hopefully informative.
The basic, cheap diner in the area is the Rego Park Café, 63rd Dr < 1 block South of the blvd. Decent, not great, standard fare. Much bigger, nicer, and more expensive is the Shalimar, on 63rd just north of the LIRR overpass. It’s expensive, but generous, and when they’re not busy they make a great breakfast. 4 or so blocks further east on Queens Boulevard is the Tower, on the north side of the street. Very reasonable and excellent diner grub.
On the South side of Queens Boulevard between 62nd and 63rd is Istanbul, a Turkish restaurant. Their gyro/doner is actually the closest thing I’ve seen in this country to the lamb shwarma I fell in love with in Amsterdam. I’ve personally become addicted to the adana kebab, and mix of ground lamb, spices, and peppers formed onto flat skewers. They have a house bread that’s really good, and a display full of fresh cold sides that I haven’t really delved into.
Rego Pita serves Israeli food, falafel, shwarma, kebabs, etc, about 2 blocks East on Queens Boulevard. The baby chicken shwarma is moist and tasty, and food comes with a free salad bar, with a variety of standard fixings. (Kosher, shomer shabbos). Not the best falafel, but pretty good.
Further east, at the edge of my range (and almost to Forest Hills) is On the Grill. This has been written up on this board a number of times before, and if you search you’ll get some good info. I just have to add that I agree with the previous posters that this place rocks, with good food and very nice ownership. (Kosher, shomer shabbos- don’t open ‘till 1)
Columbia Chicken is on 63rd Dr and Saunders. The chicken actually isn’t any better than most supermarket rotisserie birds. I go for one of the typically Columbian platters built around grilled steak, with rice & beans, other sides. Very hearty, tasty, and reasonably priced.
If you want to get rotisserie chicken, then I have to recommend Antica’s, a pizzeria on the north side of Queens Blvd, just east of 63rd. They seem to glaze it with hoi-sin sauce, and rotisserie it just so. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had, and you can get a half with steam table starch and vegetable, and a little salad, for like $7. Their sandwiches and pizza are OK, but this is what I come here for.
I tend not to waste my time on Chinese, as I have a decent takeout place near home in the suburbs, but there is one place in the neighborhood I do eat at. Next door to On the Grill is Grand Sichuan NY II. The menu is divided into Chinese food and Chinese-American food, a good sign. I was drawn in by seeing an appetizer of cold beef tendon in chili. It’s shredded, with a texture between that of chow fun and jellyfish, and delicious, with a nice fire. It’s really good also if you mix it into some of their excellent mapo tofu, which has great heat and a rich dose of black beans, whose saltiness accentuates the chili. What other things I’ve tried have been good, though their basics like wonton soup, spare ribs, and crap like that aren’t anything special.
Jay Dee Bakery is on the South side of Queens Blvd a few storefronts to the West of On the Grill. I go for breads, including a very light rye and full-flavored pumpernickel. I personally don’t care for their challah though- not eggy enough.
Sunflower International Food is on the South side of Queens Blvd just west of the Rego Park Jewish Center. They seem to have every staple used between Morocco and the Caucasus on hand, including coffees, nuts, dried fruits, juices, dozens of grains that I’ve never even heard of.
On 63rd Road, on the second block north of Queens Blvd, are a couple of Russian-ish groceries. What I mean by that is that they have Russian signs and Russian-speaking staff, but I think they are from Central Asia. The smaller one is International Gourmet, between 97th and 98th streets, which says “Tajikistan” on its sign. The other day I purchased some salami which I was told contained bear, and fresh, snowy-white, Bulgarian feta cheese there which was fabulous. They have a diverse array of smoked and preserved fishes, deli meats, and breads/groceries.
At the corner of 98th Street is Universal Food, which is twice the size, newer, and cleaner. They have a much larger selection of deli, fish, cheese, and prepared foods in the central deli counter, and a wide variety of other ethnic baked goods and groceries. Both stores are providing me with inexpensive culinary adventure.
I have not yet gotten to any of the Bukharian Jewish restaurants, or Tangra Wok, the Hakka Chinese place that has been discussed here, but will update this post as I explore more.