Rego Park and Forest Hills are home to much of Queens’ Central Asian Jewish diaspora. The neighborhoods comprise two main thoroughfares, 63rd Avenue (which changes to 63rd Street) and 108th Street. Both roads have a range of markets, restaurants and bakeries catering to local tastes. Here are a few notable addresses.
Queens Gourmet Bazaar Food
Address: 9402 63rd Dr, Rego Park, NY 11374
Telephone: +1 718 459 5536
Hours: 9am-8pm; closed Saturday
Brothers Yusuf and Juda Saz run this long, narrow market that is filled with Persian staples. Mini barrels of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, several Samarkand raisin varieties as well as fruit molasses, barberries, and other provisions in cans and glass jars cover the floor and walls. The brothers make some of the ready-made food in-house. On a recent visit, they had meat- and pumpkin-filled pies near the register, a quick homemade bite to carry home or eat on the run. Their father, Aziz, sat in the back eating his lunch of bread and fish. The Saz family came to this area over 25 years ago, and when asked what they missed the most about Iran, Juda replied, “The open homes, unlocked doors, and the culture of thoughtfulness towards family and strangers. But I certainly do not miss the lack of freedoms, not one bit.”
Address: 6369 108th St, Forest Hills, NY 11375
Telephone: +1 718 268 2626
Chaim runs this Old World Persian market. As with many migrants in this area, Persian, Russian, Hebrew, Uzbek and Bukharan may roll off his tongue. He sells dried nuts, dried dates from the Middle East, fresh dates from Israel, numerous dark/black raisin varieties, barberries, pomegranate molasses and several rice varieties. Much of it is piled up on handmade wooden plank tables. This place overflows with conversation and kindness from Chaim. One fellow shopper asked, “How much are the dates?” He gasped upon hearing the price, glanced over at me and said, “I am Persian, it is my nature to bargain,” and chuckled. Overheard in the checkout line: “I came all the way from Long Island to shop here.”
Address: 6427 108th St., Forest Hills
Telephone: +1 718 897 9296
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 9am-8pm; Sun. 9am-6pm
A small corner store across from Halal Meat Samarkand, Carmel is run by Russians and is known for its layered caramel cakes. The best day to place an order for cakes is Monday and pick-up is on Thursdays.
Address: 9209 63rd Dr, Rego Park
Telephone: +1 718 897 9080
Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 10am-11pm; Fri. 10am-5pm; Sat. 7am-10pm
This bustling restaurant caters not only to lovers of Russian-inspired cuisine but also to the Central Asian population with handmade lagman noodle soups, rice polovs, fresh salads and grilled meats of all kinds. It is big, open and welcoming, with a large menu and bar.
Tandoori Food and Bakery
Address: 9904 63rd Rd, Rego Park
Telephone: +1 718 897 1071
Polina Kavod of the Bukharian Jewish Center and Congress, says this is her go-to place when she does not feel like cooking but wants a taste of her home food from Uzbekistan.
Salute Kosher Restaurant
Address: 6361 108th St, Forest Hills
Telephone: +1 718 275 6860
Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 11am-11pm; Fri. 11am-5pm; Sat. 9am-11pm
The atmosphere here is similar to that of Cheburechnaya but it’s a smaller restaurant, and the fare is Uzbek. A large group can share a series of dishes, but also sit quietly and sip cups of tea. The Uzbek tomato salad was pleasingly simple and tart, and the hearty mound of rice plov with beef and lamb was adorned with soft chickpeas and carrots.
Address: 6406 108th St, Forest Hills
Telephone: +1 718 896 6661
Hours: Sun.-Thurs. noon-midnight; Fri. noon-5pm; Sat. 8pm-midnight
The exterior looks like the entrance to a heavy-metal-themed restaurant with its black exterior, shiny glass and mirrors. The waiter is accommodating, and the menu offers all types of Afghan-inspired grilled meats and kebabs.
(Additional funding for this piece was provided by The Sillins Family Foundation Grant)