As I wrote a couple of years ago in my Menuism article on Flushing Chinatown, Flushing's Chinatown is the most vibrant Chinatown in the United States, making it one of my most favorite Chinese communities. Unlike touristy Chinatowns that roll up the carpet earlier in the evening, the streets of Flushing remains full of activity well until late at night, and without the gift and souvenir shops and other tourist trappings that mar other Chinatowns.
Since it had been two years since my last visit to Flushing, I was pleased to be able to take a long lunch break while working in Manhattan and take the 7 train to Flushing. So much had changed in Flushing in just two years. One Fulton Square, the retail and hotel complex which was under construction during my last visit (and which I remember from my first Flushing visit 20 years ago as being the semi-paved and somewhat sketchy parking lot to Golden River Restaurant) was complete and in full swing. Meanwhile, across the street, Flushing Mall, which was constructed after my first visit to Flushing, but which had the ambiance of something built in the mid-20th century, was in the process of being torn down.
Perhaps the main attraction for me was to see the recently opened New York Food Court on Roosevelt St. With roughly 20 spaces, I was surprised to find a new eatery operating at each space. This was truly amazing given that the New World Mall with its 30 or so eateries had opened up just three years previously. True, the closing of Flushing Mall did eliminate the occupants of that mall's food court. But when you take into account the fact that New World Mall, New York Food Court, and the Golden Mall combined play host to over sixty eateries, that is truly mind boggling as that number of restaurants is by itself half as many as all of the Chinese restaurants in San Francisco Chinatown.
I was quite intrigued by the recently opened Happy Food Court on Main St., taking over the location formerly occupied by Corner 28 and it's mini-Peking duck bites. Food court might be a misnomer since this is a single restaurant operation. But then again maybe it isn't because there are nearly as many food choices here as you find in a legitimate multi-tenant food court.
One thing that made me especially happy was finally being able to find my single most favorite Chinese dish, fish dumplings, in New York. Fish dumplings came to Los Angeles more than a dozen years ago, and since being introduced have spread widely throughout the Los Angeles and San Francisco Chinese communities. But as if to validate my comment from a few years ago that New York Chinese food is still stuck in the 20th century, fish dumplings were unavailable and unheard of in New York, with the closest thing I previously found being the fish won ton at New Bo Ky in Manhattan Chinatown. However earlier this year a tipster sent me a note that a new restaurant called Dumpling Galaxy was serving fish dumplings on Main St. Unfortunately my lunch break time did not stretch long enough for me to visit Dumpling Galaxy. But as I was making the rounds at New World Mall to see what may have changed in the past two years, there I saw the sign touting fish dumplings at Szechuan Dish in stall #25. Light and fluffy as just as good as back home in Los Angeles!
A couple of other things worth noting at New World Mall. There was a lot of turnover in the lineup at the mall from my last visit there. In addition, I noticed that a lot of the eateries there now had Chinese language only signage. (I found this distressing since how could I catalog a restaurant for my Chinese restaurant spreadsheet if it didn't have any English language signage?). Chinese only signage isn't normally an issue since Chinese businesses throughout the United States generally are required to have an English language name for public safety purposes (i.e., so non-Chinese police and fire responders know where they're going). But that's not an issue when you're in an enclosed food court. And aside from Flushing, Chinese food courts are not particularly common in the United States.
I don't get to Flushing as often as I like. The food doesn't match up to that in the San Gabriel Valley, but it's the most exciting Chinatown in the US because it's a true community that doesn't go to sleep with the chickens.