The Best Restaurants In Elmhurst guide image


The Best Restaurants In Elmhurst

16 of our favorite restaurants in a neighborhood that has plenty of great ones.

Elmhurst is to NYC dining what California was to the gold mining scene in the mid-nineteenth century. There’s so much good food there, you can pick a restaurant at random, and you’ll probably wind up having a memorable meal. But that isn’t a very efficient way to go through life. Instead, use this guide. On it, you’ll find plenty of excellent things to eat, including some of the best Thai, Malaysian, and Taiwanese food in the city.

The Spots

Ayada Thai

It’s important that you bring a group to Ayada, due to the fact that you’re going to order an unreasonable amount of food. We can say this with 100% certainty, because it’s what happens to us every time we come here. Get the drunken noodles, the whole fried fish, the panang curry with a large mound of crispy duck, and be sure to start your meal with the raw shrimp salad. This is one of our top-three favorite Thai restaurants in Elmhurst, and it’s undoubtedly one of the Best Thai Restaurants In NYC.

It’s hard to think of anywhere other than Khao Kang where you can get such delicious food in such a short amount of time. This place is counter-service, and the selection of Thai dishes changes daily. You’ll see everything laid out in pans behind the counter, and we strongly suggest you get at least one curry - like the kang tai pla or the southern sour one. Or just order both. For roughly $10, you can get three entrees and a side of rice.

Sometimes, we forget what it’s like to feel alive. When that happens, we go to Chao Thai. Yes, the food here usually packs a good amount of heat - but the dishes also have so much going on that it tends to jump-start the neurons in our brains. The crispy duck salad, for example, with its cashews, pineapple, ginger, and onions, is a galaxy unto itself. Get it, try the sour sausage salad as well, and bring a friend or two to help you eat everything at this tiny cash-only place.

Khao Nom is Khao Kang’s sister spot. It’s just a few feet away, but here, all the food is made to order. There are things like curry puffs, khao man gai, and khao moo dang with a soft boiled egg and three kinds of pork. We slightly prefer Khao Kang (due to the depth of their curries) - but it’s not like you have to choose between these two very different places. Come here when you want a little more variety, and maybe several courses to your meal, and get a bunch of dessert to-go on your way out.

When we think of Lamoon, we think of their leng soup. It’s a large bowl of thin, fragrant broth loaded with several handfuls of diced scalions and chilis, and in the middle, there’s a big pile of pork spine. The meat on these bones falls off like it was never really interested in being part of a spine to begin with, and the broth gets increasingly spicy as long as the chilis bathe in it. This alone is reason enough to visit this Northern Thai spot, but if you need a few more, consider the pork blood soup, the pad see ew with tapioca pearls, or the fact that this place is BYOB.

You shouldn’t leave a movie theater without seeing a film and at least considering buying peanut m&ms. And you shouldn’t leave this Indonesian restaurant without eating chicken in some form, like the lontong sayur, a rice cake stew with crispy hard-boiled eggs that have turned the color of the earth’s core. Sky Cafe serves some of our favorite Indonesian food in the city, and it’s where you should go for a big bowl of noodles or coconut-heavy soup by yourself while you stare at whatever CBS sitcom is playing on TV.

Taste Good? More like Taste Amazing. We apologize for picking that low-hanging fruit, but it’s important you know that, in terms of its name, this slender Malaysian restaurant is selling itself short. The roti canai here is chewy, flaky and undeniably one of the best things you can eat in this city, and the creamy broth in the Singapore kari laksa tastes like the distilled and perfected essence of shrimp. Order both of these things, and start with a plate of the Malaysian satay panggang.

On its own, Happy Stony Noodle’s Taiwanese beef soup will ignite something deep inside your carnivorous body. It’s made with beef neck, a ton of spinach, and smooth, ivory-colored noodles. But add some of the green fermented mustard condiment on the table (suan cai), and you’ll understand why this sour, meaty broth party should qualify for the hypothetical Now That’s What I Call Soup Volume 1. This is one of the best single dishes you can eat in Elmhurst.

Little House Cafe looks like a bakery or a coffee shop - and it is, actually, both of those things. But this tiny counter-service spot on Corona Ave is also a full-on restaurant serving a mix of Thai, Malaysian, and Chinese dishes. The thin, flaky, and especially delicate roti canai is a must-order, and if you want a substantial breakfast or lunch, we highly recommend their nasi lemak. This place is open all day, and it’s ideal for a quick snack with a side of bubble tea or a casual bowl of noodles on a Tuesday night.

In just about any other neighborhood, Dek Sen would be a standout. This place makes a solid bowl of tom yum and some excellent pad kee mao - but there’s also a lot of competition in the area, and we slightly prefer spots like Chao Thai and Ayada. What this place is the best at, however, is dessert. Their milo sizzling roti, for example, is absolutely massive and comes topped with whipped cream, marshmallows, and chocolate sauce in an extremely hot cast iron pan. It also has a big pile of ice cream in the center and some corn flakes sprinkled on top which is a very nice touch.

Walk into Eim Khao Mun Kai, and you’ll smell two things: chicken and rice. That’s because this place specializes in a Thai version of Hainanese chicken - and it’s the only thing on the menu. A single serving comes with a big mound of rice topped with some tender poached chicken that’s chopped to order. Along with rich, salty broth on the side, it’s a very substantial meal, and it’ll cost you slightly less than $10. Grab some quick takeout, or hang out at one of the big round tables in the little space and enjoy your overachieving casual weeknight meal.

At Taiwanese Specialties, the food comes out quickly and the servers are incredibly diligent about keeping your cup full of extremely hot tea. And those are just two of the reasons why we like this place. The Taiwanese food here is also very good, it’s a great spot for a casual group meal, and you could spend an hour or two trying to decide between things on the extensive menu. Whatever you choose, get some fly’s head and the fried stinky tofu for the table. Also, bring cash.

Saraling Atin is first and foremost a Filipino grocery store - but there’s also a cafeteria-style counter in the back with simmering mung bean stews, pancit noodles, and crispy lechon kawali. We suggest getting a combo meal, which costs between $5-11 and comes with your choice of one-to-three entrees plus a side of rice or noodles. Focus on the rich pork adobo to-go, or hang out in their designated dining area. Either way, make sure you pick up some Filipino snacks like Ding Dongs or Squidees on your way out.

Lhasa Fresh Food’s menu of momos, noodles, and soups is practically the same as the original in Jackson Heights. Get the beef and chive momos, which are as herby as a sampling from your horticulturally-savvy neighbor’s garden, and the thenthuk soup with slow-creeping spicy beef broth and starchy hand-ripped noodles.

Patacon Pisao is a counter-service Venezuelan spot on Grand Avenue, and many of the dishes on the menu involve sandwiches made from unsweetened, fried green plantains. Order the patacon de pabellón, which has shredded beef, sour cream, a fried, white squeaky cheese, black beans, and a few soft sweet plantains inside. All of their signature sandwiches have about seven wonderful crunchy and soft textures happening at once, cost around $10, and will keep you full for the better part of the day.

Here’s a rule of thumb: if you’re hiding from the law, don’t snack on a banh mi at Summer, since it’s impossible to eat without leaving a trail of flaky breadcrumbs. Assuming you’re not on the run, we’d suggest sticking with the classic banh mi at this counter-service Vietnamese restaurant. It’s like the exemplary coworker on your team who always packs lunch and leads group presentations. It’s near textbook perfection. Each bite of crumbled, caramelized pork perfectly balances the buttery chả lụa, cold cucumbers, vinegary carrots and daikon, and tassels of cilantro. Summer serves our favorite version in the neighborhood.

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photo credit: Teddy Wolff

The Best Restaurants In Elmhurst guide image