If you woke up in Forest Hills one morning and had no idea where you were, you’d probably assume you were several hours outside of the city, or possibly even on a nicer planet where at least one architect was really excited about Tudor buildings. This neighborhood is relatively quiet, with lots of houses, trees, and birds who spend the majority of their lives in those trees. Whether you live in the area or plan on attending something at Forest Hills Stadium this summer, here’s where to find the best ramen, BBQ, excessively large ice cream sundaes, and more.
Keika Ramen is a counter-service spot jammed into the alleyway between a police station and a doctor’s office in Forest Hills. It’s also the first NYC location of a renowned ramen restaurant chain from Japan. The bright yellow patio tables are charming and the string lights on the patio make us wish we had a backyard, but the real highlight of this place is the top-notch bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Keika serve three different versions of this creamy noodle soup, but our favorite is the chasyu ramen - it comes with more tender pork than we’ve ever received in any other ramen order. And the bouncy and soft noodles provide a chewy foundation that pairs well with the thinly sliced meat soaked in rich broth.
If you’re in the mood for the kind of thick and crunchy pizza slice you’d typically eat out of a box at your ten-year-old nephew’s birthday party, try Austin Street Pizza. This Forest Hills slice shop has a range of solid square slices topped with things like charred pepperoni cups, cremini mushrooms, and truffle cream sauce. They’re crispy on the bottom and doughy in the middle, and each slice costs around $5. You can also stop by this counter-service shop on Austin Street for NY-style pies, calzones, cannoli, and Nutella-stuffed doughnut holes.
This mini-chain is the go-to restaurant for Korean fried chicken in Forest Hills. They serve wings, drumsticks, and boneless chicken breasts in flavors like soy and spicy garlic - giving you more than enough options to change up your order on every visit. We particularly love the drumsticks, which are lightly battered and taste like savory chicken lollipops that have been marinated in a garlicky sauce bath for days. Their dark, wood-covered dining room at this chicken bar has a bunch of picnic tables inside, so keep it in mind for a Korean fried chicken wing party.
Whenever you’re ready to confront your socialized ideas about how big a sandwich should be, head to Stacked for a foot-long hero full of five different kinds of meat (salami, ham, turkey, roast beef, and mortadella). The giant cold cut sandwich is great, especially when you’re looking for a meal that’ll definitely get you leftovers. But this solid deli counter on the quieter end of Austin Street also has a bunch of less intimidating options like jerk chicken caesar, reuben, and vegan muffuletta. Everything can be ordered on a larger hero or a smaller bread roll for less than $15, and we recommend getting your food to-go.
On the hunt for a good bagel in Forest Hills? Stop by this counter-service bagel shop for a good BEC or everything bagel with cream cheese. All of the fresh and chewy bagels we’ve had here passed the “smush test” (which means they spring back to their original structure after you squeeze them). But there are a few things you should keep in mind before you visit: Forest Hills Bagels is in a small lot with limited parking and is usually very busy in the morning, so we recommend ordering ahead online. But if you do order in-person, have your order memorized by the time you reach the front of the line because they move quickly.
If you’re hoping to get a table here after seeing Interpol perform a couple blocks away at the stadium, you’ll probably need to leave before the encore set. Station House is the most popular post-show bar in Forest Hills, and it usually fills up on random nights, too. The dimly-lit space feels kind of like a sports bar (there are big TVs all around the room), and it works well for anything from casual drinks with friends to a solo dinner at the bar. There’s a long list of craft beers on tap, and you’ll also find good cocktails, plus bar food like a massive burger topped with melted cheese, fried onions, and braised brisket.
Nick’s is a neighborhood spot with formica tables and vinyl booths, and serves crispy thin-crust pies topped with fresh mozzarella. You can also get flattened calzones that are sort of like big grilled cheese sandwiches, and you definitely want one of those in addition to your pizza. They don’t do slices, so plan to share everything with a few other people.
If want to eat some BBQ, day drink with a few friends, watch sports on TV, or all of the above, go to Queens Bully. This BBQ spot on Queens Boulevard is one of the best places in Forest Hills to spend a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, when the outdoor patio is filled with people eating wings and baby back ribs. The meats, like the nicely spiced smoked chicken and the brisket with thick bark, come with your choice of slaw or potato salad. Get the potato salad, and an extra side of BBQ sauce for dipping.
5 Burro Cafe is the sort of place where you can hang out with a frozen margarita and eat free tortilla chips out of a colorful plastic basket while you think about quitting your job and moving to a beach. It’s a neighborhood Mexican restaurant on Austin Street, and the sidewalk patio tends to get busy. The food is pretty good, the portions are big, and it’s a fun place to have a drink and some tacos with a friend or two. They also have flautas, burritos, and roughly 40 other food options, from ceviche to pork chops.
Tamashii is a Japanese mini-chain with locations in Astoria and Long Island City that serves a bunch of different types of ramen (including a few vegetarian options), along with some rice bowls and small plates like fried chicken and dumplings. Come for a weeknight meal the next time you want a bowl of noodles and possibly a few servings of sake.
At Nick’s Bistro, they give you a little serving of pita and hummus to start your meal. We appreciate this because a) hummus is good and b) free things are nice. This Greek spot on Metropolitan is a great spot to sit down and eat kebabs or shawarma. The stuffed grape leaves are also delicious (and full of meat), and the menu has all kinds of other options. Come with a friend on a Friday night and see how much wine and Greek food you can consume.
Pahal Zan is a kosher Middle Eastern spot that’s useful for a ton of different situations, from healthy solo lunches to hangover-preventing meals after some drinks at Station House across the street. Along with salads and sides, the menu consists mainly of falafel and various cuts of meats that come in pitas or on platters. Our favorite is the falafel platter, which has a lot of crunchy, spiced falafel over a massive plate of hummus, baba ghanoush, potato salad, and pickled vegetables. This place is right under the LIRR and a block from the subway, so keep it in mind for a quick bite or takeout before you leave or get back to the neighborhood.
There are a lot of old-school Italian places in Forest Hills, but we like Alberto for several reasons. There’s a big bar in front where you can eat pasta and watch TV, plus a dining room in the back with high ceilings and plenty of tables - a few of which are big, round, and good for large groups. More importantly, everyone’s really friendly here, they give you the equivalent of a whole loaf of bread with your meal, and the gnocchi are as soft as the clouds you see from an airplane window.
The menu at this casual Middle Eastern restaurant is long, with everything from lamb shawarma and moussaka to savory pastries and a whole grilled chicken - and if you’re having trouble making a decision, the friendly servers will be happy to help. This spot is ideal for a group lunch or dinner when you want to share a bunch of things in a low-key space that happens to have a giant picture of a goddess on the back wall.
We would recommend Matiz as a date spot - the food is good, the cocktails are strong and tasty, and the dark, narrow space has a lively atmosphere. No matter who you’re here with, start with some tostones with beef and chicken, and then share the platter with steak, spicy sausage, and sweet plantains. Also, keep it in mind for later dinners - it’s open until midnight on the weekends.
Do you need to get a meal with your aunt and uncle who want to listen to you talk about all the things you’re currently doing (or not doing) with your life? Go to Cabana. It’s a Latin American restaurant with a bar up front and a little dining room in the back where there are bunch of tables covered in white tablecloths. The food is solid - they have everything from salad and ceviche to steak and empanadas - and despite the white tablecloths, it actually isn’t formal at all. Wear a t-shirt, and drink a pitcher of sangria.
Hanging out in this old-school ice cream shop (which has been around for roughly a century) feels like going through a time warp to an era when you could smoke on airplanes and watch The Monkees on TV. You’re here for an ice cream sundae with classic toppings like whipped cream, hot fudge, and sprinkles - and while these come in a few different sizes, you should probably get the largest one, with three scoops. Buy one for someone before asking if they want to go steady.