A Day in Jackson Heights
by Linnea Covington, Time Out New York Contributor, 07/03/2012
Disparate cultures coexist throughout the five boroughs, but Jackson Heights is especially diverse—the neighborhood is home to a thriving gay community, in addition to its various ethnic enclaves (including large South American and South Asian populations). Exiting the subway at the Jackson Hts–Roosevelt Ave station (where the E, F, M and R lines all stop) or taking the 7 train to 74 St–Broadway deposits you near Delhi Heights, in an Indian section of the area. The regular menu offers more than 100 choices, including the usual suspects (palak paneer, chicken tikka masala, aloo gobi); but take a closer look and you'll spot a bevy of quirky Chinese-Indian fusion options. We like the Hakka-style chicken ($14.95) and lamb in hot garlic sauce ($15.95). The best overall value, though, is the $9.95 lunch buffet (daily 11:30am–4pm), which gives you access to around ten different hot dishes (both meat and vegetarian options), plus fluffy naan to sop up the curries.
Continue your desi exploration at Gulzar Beauty Salon. The minimalist space is a neighborhood favorite for eyebrow threading ($5) and traditional Indian mehndi (from $7). Choose your design and take a moment to wiggle your hands to release any restlessness; you'll have to hold your digits completely still while the technician draws the intricate pattern with henna. Once the application is finished and has dried, stretch your legs with a walk up 74th Street, where countless shops burst with brightly colored saris. When you're done browsing, hit up Patel Brothers specialty market to saturate your senses with canisters of bright Madras curry powder ($3.79), tandoori naan ($2.49) and crunchy chiplike snacks from adored food purveyor Haldiram's ($2.99–$3.99). If you enjoy dabbling in the kitchen, you can also pick up pantry staples like ghee ($3.99–$22.99) and whole-wheat chapati flour ($11.99).
Head down the street to La Nueva Bakery, where you can get flaky Argentine-style empanadas filled with tuna, beef or spinach (.80–$1.50). Nearby, you'll find Mi Mexico Lindo, one of the taco trucks that regularly park on Roosevelt Avenue. Each order ($1–$4) comes with two lightly griddled flour tortillas laden with meat—the al pastor and bistec varieties are particularly tasty—plus avocado sauce, chopped white onion and cilantro. Pile on the complimentary pickled peppers and carrots with abandon, but be wary of the searing red salsa.
Work off your refreshments with a stroll down Roosevelt Avenue. The eclectic stores that line the thoroughfare sell everything from Mexican wrestling masks and Latin pop CDs to vinyl thigh-high boots à la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. End your trip at the weekly jazz night (Sun 9pm–midnight; free) hosted by Terraza 7. Owned by active community member Freddy Castiblanco, the venue also boasts film screenings, discussion groups, workshops and art shows, in addition to regular live music performances.
For more neighborhood guides, visit timeoutnewyork.com.