Summer Fridays are upon us, and with those miraculous free afternoons comes the opportunity to explore the city's sprawling edible landscape. Grab your MetroCard and jump on the 7 train for a delicious field trip to Corona, Queens, home to a border-busting array of ethnic eats and a charming neighborhood vibe.
The elevated Junction Boulevard stop delivers you mere feet from Rincon Criollo, an old-school Cuban restaurant famous for massive portions of arroz con pollo ($24.99 "for two" but could easily serve four). The hearty stew is packed full of tender braised chicken, onions, peas and roasted red peppers and stained deep orange with annatto. Walk to El Hornero, a Colombian and Dominican bakery around the corner on Roosevelt Avenue, to pick up a slice of tender dulce de leche-laced tres leches cake ($3) and flaky guava-and-cream cheese pastries ($1.50).
Top: Scenes from Roosevelt Avenue; Bottom: Arroz con pollo at Rincon Criollo and Leo's owner Irene DeBenedittis
From there, head northeast, where the neon signs and rumbling tracks above Roosevelt Avenue give way to a low-rise residential neighborhood. Hit Leo's Latticini (a.k.a Mama's), a family-run Italian grocer founded in the 1940s, for tubs of ethereal, fresh mozzarella, daily hot plate specials and gloriously messy sandwiches. You simply cannot go wrong with the warm turkey, mozz and house-made gravy ($7). But plan accordingly: They close at 5 p.m., though if you're lucky, the chatty owner Irene DeBenedittis (daughter of "Mama" Nancy) will let you peek in after-hours and give you a quick tour of the vintage family photos lining the walls.
Still hungry? Great! Mosey down to Tortilleria Nixtamal, New York's only supplier of freshly ground masa. It's part wholesale tortilla factory and part restaurant, where you can sit down and enjoy the nutty-tasting masa in tacos, tamales and more. For the ultimate in corn-on-corn action, try the gently sweet elote tamale ($3.50), fresh corn kernels wrapped in masa and steamed in corn husks, though the tender carnitas tacos ($2.75), dabbed with chunky green salsa, are hard to pass up. Tortillas are also sold by the pound for your at-home taco needs.
Scenes from The Lemon Ice King of Corona and Tortilleria Nixtamal (bottom left)
End your culinary quest on a sweet note at The Lemon Ice King of Corona. Each of the two-dozen-plus velvety Italian ices at this justly famous 60-year-old institution are made from fresh ingredients—the proof is in tiny bits of lemon rind in the namesake offering and crushed nuts in the peanut butter. Take your cup across the street to William Moore Park, where neighborhood champions play fiercely competitive bocce until dark.
It's good to be Queens.
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