Must-See Jackson Heights
by Jessica Allen, 09/19/2014
The Arepa Lady. Photo: Joe Buglewicz
Roosevelt Avenue Street Food
The Arepa Lady
Roosevelt Avenue and 79th Street
Jeff Orlick, Queens Food Tours
You can eat cheaply and well simply by walking along Roosevelt Avenue, especially at night. As the sun goes down, vendors appear on their customary corners or spots along the blocks beneath the elevated 7 train. Music from their carts competes with the thump-thump-thump spilling out of the area's bars. It's a two-plus-mile-long party, catered by cooks from El Salvador, Mexico, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and elsewhere. Perhaps the best way to enjoy the scene is simply to follow the crowds. Try tortas and gorditas (types of sandwiches), tacos, chuzos (meat skewers), quesadillas, roast pork, raspados (flavored shave ice), esquites (corn mixed with mayonnaise, lime juice, chili powder and salt), tamales, salsas and halal lamb with rice. The most famous vendor on this strip, the so-called Arepa Lady (aka Maria Piedad Cano), sells—you guessed it—arepas, a compact snack from her native Colombia that she packs with cheese. Cano is usually at 79th Street and Roosevelt on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 pm to 4 am; check her Twitter feed for details. If you're looking for guidance, Queens resident and street food connoisseur Jeff Orlick leads several types of tours, such as a midnight food crawl. Going at midnight gives you all day and most of the evening to work up an appetite.