Flushing, Queens, New York: A Neighborhood Tour

Everything Asian on the Menu

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

Downtown Flushing is the largest urban center in Queens and home to the second largest Chinatown in New York City. Get off the 7 subway or the long Island Rail Road at Flushing Main Street and step into the crowds.

The downtown sidewalks pulse with people of all nationalities but predominantly East Asians, specifically Chinese and Koreans. Signs in Chinese are at least as prominent as those in English.

This Chinatown, though, is a real 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.

Chinatown in Flushing is home to a vibrant middle class and blue-collar community and is wealthier than Chinatown in Manhattan. 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 and have predominated since the 1980s.

Many of the Chinese arrivals to Flushing have come from Taiwan, Southeast Asia and even Latin America -- from earlier immigrant groups.

The representation of the extended Chinese community makes the eating possibilities in Flushing most delicious.

This tour focuses on Chinese stores and restaurants in downtown Flushing. The commercial heart of the area is the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, and it extends for several blocks in all directions.

Further south on Main Street the majority of stores cater to South Asians: the Pakistanis, Indians, Sikhs and Afghans who also call Flushing home. East of Main Street on Northern Boulevard the Korean community has congregated.

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. 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.
  • Check the map of Flushing.
  • 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. 

    Shopping

    Downtown Flushing is a major retail area, running the gamut from Old Navy to Chinese herbalists. The shops are all practically next to one another on Main Street. For the most action, wander north and south on Main from the shopping epicenter at Roosevelt.

    • The Shops at Queens Crossing: Opened in 2008, this urban mall is four floors of shops and restaurants and probably the most affluent shopping destination in Flushing. Look for Asian-themed home furnishings, Asian-inspired art and fashionable clothes.
    • 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.
    • World Book Store: The first floor and basement are devoted to books and magazines.  
    • Magic Castle: Korean pop culture store that sells toys, stickers and more emblazoned with cute characters like Hello Kitty, Kogepan, Pucca, Dragonball Z and San-X. 
    • Star CD: Stocked with the latest Chinese pop music. 
    • Double Star Trading Company: Hardware and household goods, including woks and cooking implements at decent prices. Most fun: Chinese import items in the back of the crowded shop, like incense and specialty paper goods. 

    Restaurants

    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, a couple of blocks from Main Street, a few excellent eating establishments rub shoulders.

    • Spicy and Tasty: Doused in red peppery oil, this is spicy food, but not crazy hot like real Thai food. 
    • Pho Vietnamese Restaurant: Tasty pho beef noodle soup and other Vietnamese dishes. 
    • 66 Lu's Seafood: Highly recommended for its Taiwanese food, especially for rice sausage and oyster pancakes.
    • Sentosa Malaysia Cuisine: Delicious Malaysian food. 
    • Ocean Jewels Seafood: Dim sum.
    • Buddha Bodai: Vegetarian.
    • Dumpling Stall: Dumplings, soups, fried noodles, and other quick dishes. 
    • American Food: Diners, McDonald's and pizzerias. Hot dog and kebab vendors are at the corners of Main and 38th Avenue and 39th Avenue. And Joe's Best Burger steps up the fast-food experience with fresh-cooked burgers and fries.

    Bubble Tea Cafes and Bakeries

    Bubble tea — sweet, milky tea served cold or hot and often with tapioca balls — is a treat easy to find in Flushing Chinatown. 

    • Sago Tea Cafe: Good people-watching along with your bubble tea. Also serves sandwiches and hot dishes.
    • Ten Ren Tea: Part of an international chain ("The Art of Chinese Tea"), it serves bubble tea to go.
    • The Taipan Bakery: Fresh cakes, sweet breads, hot snacks and buns filled with meat. Bubble tea and all sorts of milk tea are available.