New York City's Flushing Chinatown: The Complete Guide

View of Flushing Chinatown
View of Flushing Chinatown. Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images

Downtown Flushing, the largest urban center in Queens, is also home to the second largest Chinatown in New York City. Unlike Manhattan's Chinatown, though, Flushing's Chinatown is a true American fusion. For food, there's everything from McDonald's and Chinese seafood restaurants to street vendors selling fried noodles. For drinks, there are Irish bars, Starbucks, and bubble tea cafes. The shopping ranges from the standard Old Navy and upscale Benetton to Chinese bookstores, herbal medicine shops, Asian groceries, and music stores that stock the latest hits from Shanghai.

The neighborhood is home to a vibrant middle class and blue-collar community. Until the 1970s, Flushing was mostly an Italian and Greek neighborhood, but the downtown was shaken by the economic turmoil of the 1970s. People left Flushing and housing prices dropped. Korean and Chinese immigrants began to settle in Flushing by the late 1970s.

Today, Flushing's sidewalks pulse with a variety of different ethnic groups, but is primarily comprised of East Asian residents, specifically those of Chinese and Korean descent. Many of the Chinese arrivals to Flushing have come from Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and even Latin America—all earlier immigrant groups to the United States. The large representation of the extended Chinese community takes the eating possibilities in Flushing to the next level.

The commercial heart of the area is the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, which extends for several blocks in all directions. Further south on Main Street, the majority of stores cater to South Asian residents: the Pakistanis, Indians, Sikhs, and Afghans who also call Flushing home. If you're planning a trip to check out this diverse gem of a neighborhood, here's what to know.

Main Street in Flushing Queens, NY
Rudi Von Briel / Getty Images

Things to Do

Downtown Flushing is a major shopping mecca, with stores running the gamut from Old Navy to Chinese herbalists. The neighborhood's numerous shops are lined up with plenty of unique offerings, some of which are difficult to find outside mainland China. For those looking for a different type of fun, Flushing is also home to some excellent karaoke bars. Here are a few stops that should definitely be on your list:

  • New World Mall: This three story shopping center features over 100 retail shops, including a massive Asian supermarket on the first and second floors, as well as a food court and karaoke lounge.
  • Shun An Tong Health Herbal Co.: One of the oldest Chinese herbalists in Flushing. You can watch the herbalist prepare remedies from ginseng, mushrooms, shark's fin, and other traditional medicines.
  • Real KTV: This karaoke bar featured a large selection of English and Chinese songs, with quality speakers, fun lighting, and an option to order (excellent!) food off of your karaoke screen.
  • World Book Store: This cozy shop dedicates its first floor and basement to rare books and magazines in both English and Chinese.
  • Magic Castle: A mecca for pop culture lovers, this Korean shop sells toys, stickers and more emblazoned with cute characters like Hello Kitty, Kogepan, Pucca, Dragonball Z, and San-X. 
  • Soy Bean Chan Flower Shop: This unique plant shop sells douhua, also known as tofu custard, or tofu fa, out of its store window. The unique Chinese dessert, delicious with a topping of sweet syrup, is the perfect post-dim sum treat.

How to Get There

Public Transportation: Subway, Train, and Bus

  • The 7 subway serves downtown Flushing with its terminal station on Main Street.
  • The LIRR train on the Port Washington line also stops on Main Street. Buses connect Flushing to the rest of Queens and also north to the Bronx.
  • The following buses serve Flushing downtown: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 25, 28, 34, 44, 65 and 66.

Driving and Parking 

  • It is fairly easy to drive to Flushing, but traffic and parking downtown can trigger migraines. Northern Boulevard and Main Street are the two most prominent thoroughfares. Exit the Whitestone Expressway (Interstate 678/Van Wyck) at Northern Boulevard. Or exit the Long Island Expressway (I-495) at Main Street and drive north for about a mile.
  • There is a large, two-level municipal lot at 37th Avenue and Union Street. There is a smaller municipal lot next to the LIRR at 41st Avenue, just west of Main Street. 
  • On a weekday you might get lucky and find a spot on the side streets. The farther you go toward College Point Boulevard (west of Main), the more likely you will find street parking. Residential streets like those east of Union tend to have parking restrictions. Parking on Main Street is for the lucky and the thrill-seeking. 

Where to Eat and Drink

As in most Chinatowns, there are restaurants on nearly every street in downtown Flushing, but one strip deserves attention. On Prince Street near 38th and 39th avenues, just a few blocks from Main Street, a few excellent eating establishments rub shoulders. Don't miss out on bubble tea—sweet, milky tea served cold or hot and often with tapioca balls—a treat that is easy to find in Flushing's Chinatown. 

  • Szechwan Absolute: This is the spot to order Chongquing-style chicken, which is fried twice and slathered in dry peppers.
  • White Bear: With 34 kinds of exceptional dumplings, it's hard to go wrong at this tiny spot. The most popular item on the menu, wontons with hot sauce, come filled with pork and vegetables.
  • Haidilao: The Flushing outpost of a high-end hot pot chain from China offers manicures and massages to guests while they wait for a table.
  • Da Xi: Tucked inside a shopping mall, this trendy Sichuan restaurant nails dishes like dry pot spare rips, map tofu, and wood ear mushrooms.
  • Nurlan Uyghur Restaurant: Nurlan is one of the only restaurants in New York City to specialize in the cuisine of the Uyghur population, making it a unique spot to prioritize on your trip. Heavily influenced by Central Asian spices, you'll find lots of cumin and coriander here, especially in the restaurant's chewy hand-pulled noodles, called lagman.
  • Dumpling Galaxy: You can find just about any type of dumpling here, including shrimp and cucumber, lamb and green squash, and even sweet dessert dumplings, if you can't get enough.
  • PappaRich: This Malaysian bubble tea spot also has great food options, like hand-stretched roti pancakes sevred with chicken curry.
  • Yeh's Bakery: This long-standing Taiwanese bakery has classic treats like red-bean mooncakes and cream-filled buns in heavy rotation.
  • Mad For Chicken: A popular chain, the Flushing location of Mad For Chicken is the ultimate spot for crispy, juicy Korean fried chicken.
  • American Food: Hot dog and kebab vendors are at the corners of Main and 38th Avenue and 39th Avenue, while diners and McDonald's are easy to be found here, too. The ever popular Joe's Best Burger steps up the fast-food experience with fresh-cooked burgers and fries.

Tips For Your Visit

  • While parking may be available for a fee, public transportation is the best option for visiting Flushing's Chinatown.
  • The 7 train to Main Street can become crowded and congested during the U.S. Open, so make sure to check dates and times if you're heading to Flushing in the summer.
  • Many of the smaller shops and restaurants will not accept credit cards, so make sure to have cash on hand.