Magazine Top Ten 2018: The 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss!

Posted by: yetheart, December 27, 2018 11:27 am
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111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss

How well do you know the neighborhoods of Queens? In their new book 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss, author Joe DiStefano and photographer Clay Williams reveal the rich history and cultural diversity that’s just a bus, subway, or walk away.

Joe and Clay joined us in June at Elmhurst Library, Forest Hills Library, and Glen Oaks Library to talk about and sign copies of 111 Places in Queens, and Joe was also kind enough to answer some questions in advance for Queens Library Magazine!

Can you tell us how you got the idea for your book?
I’d love to take credit for coming up with the idea, but I can’t. The 111 Places series is the brainchild of publisher Emons Verlag. That said, after 20 years of exploring the World’s Borough, it was time to write a book about it.

The book’s photographs are all wonderful—how did you choose Clay Williams to work with you?
Since we’re both deeply entrenched in the world of food journalism, Clay and I have known about each other’s work for years. When my editor Karen Seiger told me he was going to be the one to shoot the book, I was overjoyed.

Your choices range from historic landmarks to funky new restaurants, from hip hop murals to the current president’s first home. How did you pick the places that made your list?
From the very beginning, I was encouraged to create a list that reflected Queens’ diversity, history, and sheer quirkiness. Some places—like Lhasa Fast Food, a Tibetan restaurant tucked away behind a Jackson Heights cellphone store—are spots that I have known about and loved for years. And some—like Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch, the final resting place of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson in Cambria Heights—I discovered in the research for the book.

Are there any places that you left off that you wish you could have included?
Queensbridge Park—the cradle of hip hop, where rappers like Roxanne Shante, Craig G, Nas, and many more got their start— comes to mind. Then there’s the Tenrikyo Mission New York Center, a Japanese house of worship in Flushing’s Murray Hill, and of course St. George’s Church in downtown Flushing.

Which locations do you think will be the most surprising to your readers, even if they have lived in Queens for years?
Certainly Ohel Chabad-Lubavitch, but most Queens natives have never heard of Rudar Miner’s Club, an Astoria soccer club founded by Croatian coal miners that boasts a wonderful restaurant frequented by Lidia Bastianich. The Alley Pond Giant—a 450-year-old flowering tulip tree in Oakland Gardens—is the oldest living organism in New York City, and also something that not everyone’s aware of. And there’s LaGuardia Landing Lights, a park in East Elmhurst that, when conditions are right, offers a chance to see dozens of jumbo jets roaring just above the treetops.

Joe DiStefano and Clay Williams

Joe DiStefano (left) and Clay Williams.

In 2015, Lonely Planet famously named Queens the number one travel destination in the U.S. What do you think of all the attention our borough is getting?
It’s great that Queens has been getting so much attention, but some of the lesser-known and harder-to-get-to neighborhoods like Little Neck, Whitestone, and Addisleigh Park tend to get overlooked in favor of more well-known places like Long Island City, Astoria, and Jackson Heights. Hopefully, we can change that.

You’re a food writer and culinary tour guide—where’s the one place to dine in Queens that people must not miss?
K-tropolis—the real Korea Town in New York City—that stretches for about five miles from Northern Boulevard and Union Street in Flushing all the way out to the Long Island border. A good place to start is Jeonju, on 40-11 150th Street in Murray Hill, which offers a wonderful version of the pork spine stew gamjatang.

We noticed that no Queens Library locations made your list! Which branches would you recommend that people visit while they’re exploring Queens?
Well, that’s not entirely true! The chapter on The Chestnut King, a popular Chinese hawker in downtown Flushing, includes a tip about the steps leading up to the Flushing branch, which are etched with the titles of folk tales from around the world, including China’s “Journey to the West,” America’s “Johnny Appleseed,” and Ghana’s “Anansi the Spider.” I’m also a big fan of the newly redesigned library in Elmhurst, and I’m looking forward to giving a talk there with Clay and Karen.

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Queens Library Magazine.

Read the Other Stories in the Queens Library Magazine Top Ten of 2018.