Woodside is a neighborhood out of central casting: very Queens, very old New York and new New York, very diverse, and very unexpected. Woodside's not a pretty neighborhood, but one that's worth exploring for its honest, workaday character.
Walk down Roosevelt Avenue and feel the rumble of the overhead subway and train (the Long Island Railroad stops in Woodside), hear five or six languages spoken, and hunt in vain for a parking spot.
Woodside is the epicenter of Irish pubs in Queens. At the few blocks where 61st Street, Roosevelt Avenue, and Woodside Avenue meet, there are at least half a dozen pubs where the Guinness is fine, the accents authentic, and the football soccer. Also nearby are Irish-theme gift shops and cafes that highlight tea over coffee.
Catholic War Veterans
Woodside immigrant roots stretch back to the nineteenth century. There's the new Irish with a presence in Woodside, but the old Irish and generations of Irish-Americans dominated the neighborhood for much of the 20th century.
The well-used St. Sebastian's Post 870 Catholic War Veterans was founded in 1946, affiliated with St. Sebastian's Catholic Church, the local parish (founded in 1896).
Every Memorial Day at Doughboy Park, Woodside honors the neighborhood's servicemen and women who have fallen in defense of our nation. It's been said that more servicemen from the Woodside zip code died in the Vietnam War than from any other zip code in the United States.
Row Houses in Woodside
Residential Woodside is a mix of single-family homes, multifamily homes, and small to large apartment buildings. Here's a fairly typical street of attached homes and tiny front yards.
Divya Dham is a Hindu temple in the industrial area of Woodside. Its plain exterior -- the temple was created out of two former warehouses -- belies the extraordinary religious setting inside.
Most Hindu temples devote worship to a particular manifestation of the divine, such as Kali or Shiva, but at the huge Divya Dham all the divinities are worshiped. Murtis -- sculptures in the visage of the Hindu deities, which serve as points of worship -- and 1009 lingam, sculpture representative of Shiva, go a long way to filling the huge space.
The unusual comprehensive gathering of murtis lets Divya Dham serve as a gathering spot for all Hindus who live in the greater New York area, no matter which particular entity they devote themselves. The temple especially draws devotees on special holy days, as a pilgrimage site. Like most temples in India, there’s even a cave for personal meditation, though in Woodside it’s a man-made one.
This steel artwork Woodside Continuum (1999) by artist Dimitri Gerakaris in the 61st Street / Woodside station (7 subway and LIRR) tells a little history of the neighborhood with regard to mass transit. It has had a Long Island Railroad train station since the 1860s. The station relocation in 1915 to the current location moved the neighborhood's business center.
Mina, a legendary Bangladeshi cook, beloved by New York Chowhound, has her own restaurant, Spicy Mina, in Woodside (Spicy Mina, 64-23 Broadway, Woodside, NY 11377, 718-205-2340).
Mina earned her fame running restaurants in Manhattan and Sunnyside, and Chowhounds have supported her in Woodside since the 2005 opening. The fuss about her Bangladeshi cooking is the great taste and the long wait.
Mina prepares each dish from scratch, which is a big improvement over the vats of curry prepared in advance at most South Asian eateries. The problem is that level of care means you have to wait up to an hour for your meal to be served. The restaurant is also off the main drag, less convenient to the subway.
Sapori d'Ischia Restaurants and Italian Gourmet Store
Sapori d'Ischia is an Italian specialty retail store that converts into a taste-sensation Italian restaurant at night. Sapori d'Ischia is in the industrial area of Woodside, far from the subway, but worth the trip.
- Sapori d'Ischia, 55-15 37th Ave., Queens, NY 11377, 718-446-1500