By David Brand and Rachel Vick
New York City’s Restaurant Week mostly ignored Queens this summer, but that’s OK with local gourmands and business boosters who already know which borough has the best food — and the best prices.
“Every week is Restaurant Week in Queens,” said Queens Tourism Council Director Rob MacKay. “Around here we have a lot of good food that’s authentic and affordable — and it’s awesome.”
Only two Queens restaurants, Maiella in Long Island City and Meet the Meat in Astoria, were included in this summer’s New York City Restaurant Week, which began July 22 and lasts through Aug. 16.
Restaurant Week participants serve a prix fixe lunch and brunch for $26 and dinner for $42. That’s more expensive than the vast majority of Queens bistros, MacKay said.
“Even though the food [in Queens] is so much better than in Manhattan, it’s still cheaper so it’s not worth it,” MacKay said.
The Queens Economic Development Corporation organizes the borough’s own Restaurant Week each year, usually in October. The Queens program actually last weeks two weeks “because there’s too much great food,” Mackay said. It’s about half the price of the citywide event to fit the budgets and tastes of most Queens residents.
The Manhattan-centric event and the Queens version is like comparing “apples and oranges,” MacKay said, before tailoring his metaphor:
“It’s perfectly cooked, authentic kimchi in Flushing and small servings of overpriced kimchi in Manhattan.”
And competition among the shops serving that perfectly cooked, authentic kimchi in Flushing keeps prices “exceedingly low” — to the benefit of local residents and international foodies, said Flushing Chamber of Commerce President John Choe.
“Flushing has the best authentic cuisine and the chamber definitely encourages people to explore and have an adventure here in our neighborhood,” Choe said.
Each year during the U.S. Open, the Flushing Chamber organizes tours of the neighborhood, which feature stops at the world-renowned shops and restaurants, particularly those serving regional Chinese dishes.
“People don’t think about it as Chinese food here because it’s Szechuan, Fujianese, Taiwanese. There are layers and layers of complexity here,” he said.
The business booster is planning another series of tour for later this summer, when thousands converge on the Billie Jean King Tennis Center for the Grand Slam tournament.
“You don’t have to travel around the world because we have so many different cuisines here,” he said.