Bordering the nearby neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Rego Park, Elmhurst is a Queens neighborhood filled with an abundance of stories (and cuisines) that illuminate how local community members all contribute to New York’s unique identity. One way to share these stories is by taking a look at the powerful relationship between cultural connection and food.
Meet five local restaurant owners and hear how they got started running their businesses in Elmhurst.
These stories were produced for Homecoming’s inaugural restaurant crawl in Elmhurst, Queens. Homecoming is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting food-insecure New Yorkers by driving business to local New York restaurants. You can read more about the incredible work that Homecoming is doing here.
Behind every dish there’s a story of a restaurant that puts great care into sharing their cuisine and creating a space where others can also feel at home. Meet Dewi.
Over thirteen years ago, Dewi and her co-founders decided to open Indo Java (8512 Queens Blvd #1), a grocery store to help remind them of their hometown in Indonesia. The store became a space for the Indonesian community to come together, gossip in Bahasa, and teach and share recipes.
In that spirit, Dewi decided to also host a pop-up restaurant in the store called Warung Selasa (“Tuesday Stall”), another homage to her hometown. It made Indo Java one of the tiniest and most coveted restaurants in the neighborhood. Here, you’ll find meals such as tahu isi, fried vegetable stuffed tofu, and cendol, an Indonesian iced dessert made with green pandan, coconut milk, and palm sugar.
Alvin Chen and his family are owners of Taiwanese Gourmet (8402 Broadway, Queens), a restaurant that has been a pillar in the Elmhurst community for over 25 years. Created by two immigrants from Taiwan hoping to promote Taiwanese culture in the community, Taiwanese Gourmet became a restaurant where everyone from toddlers to senior citizens come to enjoy the food. Sharing a meal across generations is one of the things that makes this restaurant so special.
Taiwanese Gourmet prides itself on its authentic cuisine that as Alvin says “hits close to home.” It’s why you feel like you’re home as soon as you walk through their doors. Here, you can find staples like their pork chop over rice.
Lao Bei Fang Dumpling House
Lao Bei Fang Dumpling House (83-05 Broadway, Queens) is a beloved northern-style Chinese restaurant on the corner of Broadway and Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst. One of their owners, Tashi Penpa believes “if you can’t cook a meal well, you won’t have any returning customers”.
This belief is clearly shown in everything they serve. Their menu is as colorful and varied as the flavors of their dishes. While they’re well known for their hand-pulled noodles, New Yorkers far and wide come for the pork and leek fried dumplings. Thicker and larger than typical dumplings, they are – luckily for us – unbelievably packed with stuffing. To top it off, make sure to apply an ample amount of chili oil and soy sauce.
Tashi opened the restaurant in 2010. As he grew the restaurant, it was always about bringing quality northern-style Chinese dishes to the neighborhood. While the fried dumplings are the staple of the restaurant, he also suggests trying the spicy hotpot. In his hometown, it’s all about spicy food.
Meet Coco, the namesake of Coco Malaysian (82-69, Broadway, Queens), a must-eat staple for Malaysian food in Elmhurst, Queens. Coco grew up with the restaurant – they’re both 19 years old – and it’s a part of her identity. Working there, translating for her parents, and talking to customers helped her grow as a person too. Her hope: that more people will know about Malaysian food as much as other cuisines.
Here, you’ll want to try their most popular dish, Roti Canai. Made famous by Mamak hawkers in stalls in Malaysia, this dish is a perfect combination of flavors: the crispy, flaky, and buttery flatbread is made to be combined with a savory chicken and potato curry that adds a hint of spice.
Pro tip from Coco on how to dip your roti into the curry: If your piece is soft, leave it in the curry to soak more of it in. If it’s crispy, make it a quick dip so your piece doesn’t break.
Eim Khao Mun Kai
To just have one dish at Eim Khao Mun Kai (8132 Broadway, Queens) and be a favorite in Elmhurst speaks volumes about the owner Bobby. He grew up in Thailand loving kao mun gai (chicken rice) and found a way to translate that love into incredible flavors he introduced to the neighborhood six years ago. Bobby immigrated 17 years ago, studying and initially working at a restaurant in New York. Little by little, he worked his way up and was encouraged by his boss to start his own venture. Luckily for us, he started Eim Khao Mun Kai in Elmhurst and brought us home to the flavors that built his childhood.
Here, you’ll find his famous set 1: steamed chicken over rice aka khao mun gai. Importantly, not to be confused with hainanese chicken. Their tender poached chicken tops a mound of Thai jasmine rice and is served alongside gizzards and liver. Drizzle on a little soy sauce as an extra garnish.
Want to discover more stories in New York City? Explore at your pace, on your schedule with Gesso - browse available tours!
Show us where your curiosity takes you and share your travels with us @gesso.app on Instagram.