Tourists Should Know About New York City's Most Exciting Neighborhood For Foodies

It's no secret that New York City is one of the culinary epicenters of not only the U.S., but the entire world. What is more of a secret, however, is that one of the best foodie neighborhoods is actually in Queens. New Yorkers are well-aware that Jackson Heights has some of the best food in the city, but many tourists miss the opportunity to visit, either out of fear of riding the subway, the hesitation of leaving Manhattan, or simply not knowing Jackson Heights exists. We're here to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and head into one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in all of New York.

As soon as you exit the 7 train at Roosevelt Ave, aromas of Colombian street arepas will warm your senses, the sounds of hustling and bustling will keep you alert, and the options of what to eat will quickly become overwhelming. Whether it's something as simple as a slice of pizza or something as complex as brain tacos from a truck right outside of the subway station, Jackson Heights can satisfy anyone's appetite.

How to get there

Those who don't jump on the 7 train (which you can pick up right in Times Square) don't realize what they're missing out on. If you're scared of using the New York City subway or you're concerned about not knowing Queens, don't be. Let us clear the air: Getting to Jackson Heights is quick, easy, and safe.

The best way to get to Jackson Heights is by taking the 7 train on the subway. The 7 train conveniently stops all along 42nd Street, meaning you can pick it up from Grand Central, Bryant Park, Times Square, and at 34th Street-Hudson Yards near Penn Station. Take it in the direction of Queens, and ride it until the 74th St-Broadway station. The entire journey on the 7 should take somewhere around 20 to 25 minutes. 

Aside from the 7 train, the E, F, M, or R can take you to Roosevelt Ave. (Note: The stop on the 7 train is called 74th St-Broadway. If you take the E, F, M, or R, the stop will be called Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Ave.) It is advisable to look at the MTA app to familiarize yourself with the subway system. Google Maps is often a reliable source when trying to transit around New York City.

Of course, you can always hail a yellow cab or take an Uber, but it is ill-advised as the cost will be high, and traffic will likely be awful. The subway is the way to go.

Most ethnically diverse neighborhood in NYC

As of 2020, over 170,000 people resided in Jackson Heights, speaking approximately 167 languages. There are significantly large Latino, Tibetan, Nepalese, and Indian populations, but it certainly doesn't end there. Any visitor can expect to hear several languages around them at any point. Jackson Heights is a colorful place, where one restaurant or shop might have a papel picado banner hanging (a typical Mexican-style banner made of colorful, perforated tissue paper) and another might be a visually vibrant Indian eatery, such as Jackson Diner.

About 63% of the residents in Jackson Heights are originally from outside the U.S. Because of this, Jackson Heights is often referred to as the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in New York City. People all around the world refer to New York City as the melting pot, but the truth is that the majority of Manhattan, and even much of Brooklyn, has been gentrified. If you're looking for a real melting pot in New York, head over to Jackson Heights. The recipes found on menus here have origins from all over the world.

Now for the good part ... the food

Trying to narrow down where to eat in Jackson Heights is a difficult task. The neighborhood has hundreds of delicious restaurants. Luckily, getting a bad meal here is almost as impossible as trying to narrow down where to go.

Some of the most sought-after cuisines in Jackson Heights are Nepali and Tibetan. Momos, which are believed to have originated in Tibet but have notorious popularity on the streets of Nepal, are soup dumplings typically filled with meat and a good amount of steaming hot broth. There are no shortage of momos in Jackson Heights, and it's one of the few places in New York City to get the real deal. One of the most popular spots to grab momos is at Lhasa Fast Food, which is incredible. It primarily gained its popularity after Anthony Bourdain paid a visit.

Momos aside, Jackson Heights has plenty of other cuisines for you to try. Some of the best of the best are Arepa Lady (Colombian), Kitchen 79 (Thai), Raja Sweets & Fast Food (Indian), La Esquina Del Camarón Mexicano (Mexican), and above all, any of the food trucks lined along Roosevelt Avenue. The food trucks range from Ecuadorian-style breakfast to the infamous Birria-Landia, a taco truck that specializes in birria.

Food tours in Jackson Heights

There are so many restaurants to choose from in Jackson Heights that it can feel overwhelming even for those who know the area. It might be worthwhile to book a food tour with a trusted local, and few are more trusted in the Jackson Heights community than Joe DiStefano. Frequently referred to as the "Culinary King of Queens," DiStefano is a go-to source in the New York foodie scene. He knows New York's culinary secrets so well that he offers local food tours. A standard Joe DiStefano Food Tour typically lasts 3.5 hours and is $110 per person. A longer food tour lasts 4.5 hours and is $225 per person.

Each tour usually has eight stops, and the Jackson Heights tour typically focuses on South Asian, Indian, Bangladeshi, Tibetan, and Nepali cuisines. Sometimes, however, there might be a Mexican or Colombian spot in there, since the neighborhood is so diverse.

Things to do aside from eating

While eating is the main draw for visitors to Jackson Heights, the fun certainly doesn't stop there. Jackson Heights has plenty of options for activities other than consuming some of New York's best food. If you're looking for a manicure, ZR Nail Place on 78 is a great option for fun nail art. Bowlero Queens is a fun bowling alley if you need a little bit of movement after eating your way around the globe.

If you're looking to get in touch with some of the local cultures of Jackson Heights, it's well worth your time to check out the Sherpa Temple, a Buddhist temple located at 41-01 75th St in Queens. The Sherpa Temple is a Nepali temple and will offer a small taste of Nepal without the expensive flight ticket.

There is also a wide range of specialty grocers, including Patel Brothers (an Indian grocery store), Stand Alone Cheese (a specialty cheese shop), and Despaña Gourmet Queens (a gourmet Spanish store). Overall though, the best reason to go to Jackson Heights is exactly why you've read this far: to eat your way around the globe without ever leaving New York's most diverse borough.