The Best Restaurants In Elmhurst

Our favorite restaurants in a neighborhood that has plenty of great ones.
The Best Restaurants In Elmhurst image

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Elmhurst is to NYC dining what California was to the gold mining scene in the mid-19th century. With rich veins of restaurant gold along Woodside Ave. and Broadway, and plenty of gleaming nuggets scattered around this Queens neighborhood, you could pick a spot at random, and you’ll likely end up having a memorable meal. But that’s not a very efficient way to go through life. Instead, use this guide. You’ll find excellent things to eat, including some of the best Thai, Malaysian, and Taiwanese food in the city. 

The Spots

photo credit: Alex Staniloff



$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerBYOB
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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 dishes, and start with a plate of the Malaysian satay panggang.

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 to this soft-lit restaurant with two rooms and a menu that’s several pages long. 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 favorite Thai restaurants in Elmhurst, and one of the Best Thai Restaurants In NYC.

With Thai club bangers blasting, roast chickens hang-drying in the kitchen window, and angry-looking roosters on the ceiling, Zaab Zaab is one of the more fun restaurants in Elmhurst, and the food here is some of the best you’ll find on Woodside Ave. Come with a small group to drink Chang beer, or a $36 bottle of wine, and eat spicy Thai food, particularly specialties from the northeastern Isan region. Get the juicy larb with crispy duck skin and bits of chewy liver, and be sure to have a hot pot in the middle of your table.

Near Thai dining destinations Ayada and Zaab Zaab, Hug Esan is smaller than these restaurants, but the regional Isan specialties here are no less mighty. Get four people together, BYOB (for a small fee), and settle into the tiny dining room for a lunch or dinner you’re going to be talking about for a while. The whole tilapia comes grilled or fried, and both are good choices. You should also get a bowl of spicy mee ka tee or khao piak sen, a meat-heavy soup thickened with pork blood. Round out your meal with some salads and small bites. We’re especially partial to the grilled chicken livers and crispy frog legs, but everything is delicious.

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 New York, 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 or karaoke pop-song is playing on the TV.

Saranrom is one of Elmhurst’s best Thai restaurants, and it's also the one that feels most like a local favorite night out, with Top Chef: Thailand playing on the TV. The aromas from the kitchen are so good they’ll convince you that all you ever wanted was to bathe in every sauce, curry, and noodle dish on their long menu. Drift away on this aromatherapy session while eating your hoy tod, a mussel pancake that tastes as if a bivalve and a funnel cake spent a little too much time listening to a Marvin Gaye record.

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 selection of Thai dishes at this casual place 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 $16, you can get a three dish combo over rice. They have a sister spot, Khao Nom, just a few feet away, where the food is made to order: you can get things like curry puffs and khao man gai there, and a bunch of desserts to-go.

On its own, Happy Stony Noodle’s Taiwanese beef soup will ignite something deep inside your carnivore’s body. It’s made with beef neck, a ton of spinach, and smooth, ivory-colored noodles. But stir in some of the suan cai on the table and you’ll understand why the addition of the green fermented mustard condiment qualifies this dish for the hypothetical Now That’s What I Call Soup Volume 1. It’s a hit—one of the single best dishes you can eat in Elmhurst.

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Taiwanese Gourmet image

Taiwanese Gourmet


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.

Sariling 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. Get a combo meal, which costs between $5-11 and comes with your choice of one-to-three entrees (one of which should be the rich pork adobo), plus a side of rice or noodles. You can take your order to-go, or hang out in their cafeteria-like dining area. Either way, make sure you pick up some Filipino snacks like Ding Dongs or Squidees on your way out.

The Elmhurst location of Lhasa Fresh Food has practically the same menu of momos, noodles, and soups as the original in Jackson Heights. Get the beef and chive momos, which are as herby as a bouquet from your horticulturally inclined neighbor’s garden, and the thenthuk soup with starchy, hand-ripped noodles and a beef broth that’s slow-creepingly spicy.

Patacon Pisao is a counter-service Venezuelan spot on Grand Avenue, and much of the menu involves sandwiches made from unsweetened, smashed fried green plantains. Order the patacon de pabellón, which has shredded beef, sour cream, black beans, a few soft sweet plantains, and a fried, white squeaky cheese inside. All of their signature sandwiches cost about $10, have about seven wonderful crunchy and soft textures happening at once, 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 stop for 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. Like the exemplary coworker on your team who always packs lunch and leads group presentations, it’s near textbook perfection, and our favorite banh mi in the area. Each bite of crumbled, caramelized pork perfectly balances the buttery chả lụa, cold cucumbers, vinegary carrots and daikon, and tassels of cilantro.

Walk into Eim Khao Mun Kai, and you’ll smell two things: chicken and rice. 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 for slightly less than $13. Grab some quick takeout, or hang out at one of the big round tables in the little space to enjoy your overachieving weeknight meal.

We like to go to this cash-only spot for a more homestyle Thai meal in Elmhurst. Fittingly, it’s in a more residential area than the restaurants on the main drag, and if you go in the afternoon, you might see a few kids doodling at one of the restaurant’s three tables. Not only can you eat a pungent som tum Thai, or a tom yum here, but you can also buy lottery tickets. Order whichever of the appetizers, noodles, or curries you’re in the mood for, but definitely get a portion of the sweet ga prao kai dow with beef to go with your scratch-off.

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 have so much else going on that they also jump-start the neurons in our brains. The crispy duck salad, with cashews, pineapple, ginger and onions, for example, 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.

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