Valentine’s Day in Queens the Food and Footprints Way
Rife with culinary escapades to shame any basic steak-dinner-and-chocolate-dessert game, Queens is where to get your lover’s heart racing for Valentine’s Day food. Edible Queens scooped some exotic places from Greg Gouras and Jo Mae “Jumi” Oraa, the adventurous couple behind Queens food blog Food and Footprints for their suggestions to thrill intrepid and hungry cupid devotees in the Royal Borough.
Initially connecting through Instagram during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Greg and Jumi quickly bonded over a love of travel and a shared openness to try anything once, proven instantly at their first official dinner date at Jackson Heights’ Playground Bar & Bistro and Taitoon Thai Karaoke, where their attraction cemented over servings of ant larvae salad and fried grasshoppers. (Liquid courage assists in insect ingestion so fear not: Playground’s happy hour doesn’t end until closing at 1am in this joint where “grub” means actual grubs, so the $3 Singha beers flow all night long.) For more timid paramours, non-insect salad options include the pork-based, rice-dashed Moo-Manao, crunchy, citrusy and hard to share. Greg and Jumi also recommend the E-San styled grilled sliced beef with its dank, snappily spiced sauce or the crispy whole red snapper for a cozy, eat-cute couple’s meal.
Heart-shaped onigiri in tangy addictive flavors like pickled plum umeboshi and bacon edamame are available year-round at Jackson Heights’ casual Japanese boîte 969 NYC Coffee, but are all the more special on Valentine’s Day, asymmetrically wrapped by two stiff ribbons of seaweed making each elegant rice ball resemble a small white gift. Greg and Jumi encourage creating one’s own Lady and the Tramp moment over a shared bowl of the slow-cooked musky tonkosu ramen or the vegetarian-friendly brand-new tomato-based veggie ramen. A heart-etched green matcha latte and an avocado shake with black sesame ice cream are the de rigueur and not-too-sweet meal enders.
The no-cell-phone policy for the tables in Corona’s Il Triangolo does allow for discreet food photos but thankfully no obnoxious yakking from your clueless neighbor. Named for the triangle-shaped building which the restaurant’s original owner bought and restored, this traditional Italian treasure allowed Greg and Jumi to depart from a menu of invertebrates last Valentine’s Day, instead devouring Triangolo’s bright red beef carpaccio and heart-shaped lobster ravioli, both specials for the night. Lemony, fennel-flecked scallop salad, homemade cavatelli with broccoli rabe and homemade sausage and a pork chop grilled with hot peppers and onions flash only a fraction of the rest of this menu’s magic.
The only Armenian restaurant in New York City, Sevan in Oakland Gardens, is a real adventure as it is not near any public transportation. Sometimes there aren’t even any other diners, making for an intimate evening over crispy-edged lamb kebab and beef manti, mini dumplings served with yogurt and a tomato sauce. But sometimes Sevan is used as a catering hall for the nearby Armenian church so make sure to call ahead to confirm the restaurant is actually open to the public for the day. Under the radar with no website and barely any online presence, Sevan woos you for a return visit with the likes of lahmacun, Armenian-style extra-thin-crust pizza topped with ground beef and minced vegetables, and basturma, a smoky blood-colored dried cured meat that alone will have you justifying that next Lyft ride out to Oakland Gardens.
Find more local-based foodie exploits and inspirations on Food and Footprints’ interactive Queens map page and may your own love continue to grow this year over a dish of spicy grubs: Happy Valentine’s Day, Queens!