Novel New York
by Jessica Allen, 04/01/2014
"Native Son" (1995), by Chang-Rae Lee courtesy Riverhead Books • Flushing photo by Will Steacy
Through the story of would-be spy Henry Park, a Korean-American trying to assimilate and become a "native speaker," Chang-rae Lee zeroes in on Flushing. More than 60 percent of the residents of this Queens neighborhood were born outside of the United States, generally somewhere in Asia, and the immigrant experience on evidence is as multifaceted as in the pages of Lee's novel. Begin, as Park does, by cruising along Main Street, admiring the street's diversity, in terms of people and produce. Let the sounds and smells stimulate your appetite, for this is one of the City's best areas for eating. When you can no longer ignore the rumblings of your belly, visit Tai Pan Bakery, known for its selection of goodies like egg tarts and buns stuffed with pineapple or coconut. For traditional Korean fare, try the stews and seasonal vegetables at Joo Mak Gol, within walking distance of Main Street. Or hop a bus along Northern Boulevard to Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. At this first NYC outpost of a Seoul-based chain owned by a beloved comedian and former wrestler, you can try Korean barbecue, in which you cook your proteins and veggies tableside over a low flame. Memorialize Park by discreetly peering over your menu to check out what other diners are ordering.