Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” installation features constructed fences around iconic sites in New York City. The project is a response the global migration crisis and a reflection on the profound social and political impulse to divide people from each other.
In Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Ai created a 1,000-foot “Circle Fence” made of metal shapes and interconnected netting around the park’s iconic Unisphere to draw renewed attention to its symbolism of global unity. With the public welcome to climb, lounge or sit on the “Circle Fence” exhibit, Ai’s “fences” prove not to be barricades at all, but inviting additions to the NYC community.
The project is on display through February 11, 2018. Queens, home to a large immigrant population with roughly 165 different languages spoken, offers ample opportunity for even more cultural immersion after a visit to the park, thanks to its hotbed of ethnic restaurants.
Here are just a few of our favorites:
(Queens Museum, Flushing Meadows–Corona Park)
The light-filled café, COFFEED could not be a more convenient spot to refresh while visiting the exhibit, located within the Queens Museum with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Unisphere and “Circle Fence.” All 10 of COFFEED’s locations (four of which are in Queens) donate a portion of their gross revenue to charitable partners based in the same communities as their sites; this one gives a portion of sales to the Flushing Meadows–Corona Park Alliance.
Through in-kind donations, COFFEED also supports various organizations, events, fundraisers, workshops and speaker series that foster social innovation, social entrepreneurship and support communities focused on making positive change. COFFEED’s menu features items made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients and single-origin coffees from around the world, including baked goods, burgers, salads, beer and wine.
(Elmhurst, 83-29 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373)
Ribbons of hand-drawn and knife-shaved noodles are the stars of the menu at this Michelin-recommended traditional Chinese Henan restaurant. Hand-drawn noodles are made by twisting, stretching and folding the dough into strands, using the weight of the dough; knife-shaved noodles are hand-shaved thin sheets of dough off of a log-like noodle base. The spicy/sweet/sour flavors of the “dial oil” noodles are intoxicating, dressed in a slightly sweet-tart vinegar and garlic-chili sauce, then topped with mung bean sprouts, crisp bok choy and sweet onions. Plump vegetarian or meat dumplings dipped in the special brown vinegar table sauce make an excellent sidekick to the noodles. (Note: This restaurant is cash only.)
(Elmhurst, 81-10 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373)
Paet Rio dares to showcase the heat of authentic Thai cooking in a way that many of NYC’s restaurants cannot if they want to keep typical NYC customers. However, the restaurant’s location in New York’s largest Thai community makes its dare to palates a welcome one. A perfect introduction is the potently delicious Larb Salad. Not-messing-around chili adds a swell of heat to a mix of minced meat, onions, fish sauce and ground roasted rice brilliantly counterbalanced with refreshing lime juice and mint.
Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan
(42-47 Main St., Flushing, NY 11355)
Boasting several menu pages of impressive Hunan dishes, this is a great spot for groups down to order a table-full of food to sample as many things as possible. Lightly fried and pleasantly sweet donut-like pumpkin cakes are a great way to start the meal, followed by vinegary Wood Ear mushrooms and the regional classic “Mao’s-style Pork,” which features tender pork in a smoky wine sauce. Fragrant (and oddly pleasantly mouth-numbing) Sichuan peppercorns amplify classics like Mapo Tofu, a staple of Hunan’s neighboring Sichuan province.
(42-35 Main St., Flushing, NY 11355)
Choose from more than 100 kinds of flavor-filled, handcrafted dumplings created by the imaginative Helen Yu, who takes the business of dumplings so seriously she dreams of them in her sleep. Learn more about Yu’s inspirations and her new cookbook in this Q&A we did with her earlier this year.
(Corona, 104-05 47th Ave., Queens, NY 11368)
It’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu at this lively spot, but do not leave without trying a dish featuring its extraordinary 100% natural corn tortillas. The tortillas are produced on-site in a classic but rare technique that uses nixtamal, which is dried corn cooked in lime and water then set to soak for eight to 12 hours before being cleaned then freshly ground. This method has proven to provide health benefits due to the lime releasing niacin in corn, an essential amino acid, as well as incredible layers of flavor. The tortillas are available for purchase.