It's in Queens Events Column
Carol Burnett comes to Queens this weekend. Lucky her! She'll find great opera, Cameroonian music, Brazilian film, Indian modernist art, Mexican dance, Canadian puppetry, a brand new musical, and even kite-flying. Here's the rundown.
Highlights of the Month
The Paper Factory Hotel has defined the ultimate New York City boutique hotel experience. In the heart of Long Island City's urban scene, at the crossroads of the charming Kaufman Art's District and trendy Astoria, The Paper Factory Hotel is an ideal choice for the seasoned business traveler as well as the lifestyle-driven tourist eager to access the vibrant city.
37-06 36 St., Long Island City
Sensory Stories: An exhibition on new narrative experiences, encounter new immersive technologies and creative experiments that engage sight, hearing, touch, and smell. Exhibition is open from Wednesday to Thursday from 10:30am-5pm, Fridays from 10:30am-8pm (Free admission: 4pm-8pm) Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30am-7pm. Closed on Monday and Tuesdays.
36-01 35 Ave., Astoria
May 2015 Picks by John Garay of BQE Tours
For Italian, I must highlight one of my all-time favorites, Piccola Venezia. When I say this is one of the best Italian restaurants in Queens, I should extend that to ALL of NYC. The decor may be dated, the menu, a bit pricey, but the food is undoubtedly delicious, with a specialty in cuisine from Northern Italy. They are also very accommodating for special orders; if you can think of it, they can cook it. But do yourself a favor and just trust the chefs and the menu; they've been doing this for a while. You may notice a few Italian restaurant clichés, but that's authentic charm; no tongue-in-cheek is involved here. It's sincerely old-school, started in 1973 and still family-owned and -operated. I recently called them up and spoke with Ezio, the founder and patriarch of the restaurant: "You called me on the perfect day!," he exclaimed, in his still-thick Italian-American accent, "today we are celebrating our 42-year anniversary!" He proceeded to invite me to come down for a drink. Old-world charm, I tell ya, and they know how to cook.
It would be remiss of me to leave out Stamatis at 29-09 23rd Ave. Every time my wife's father visits NYC—where he emigrated from Greece at the age of 15—we always meet at this restaurant, owned by his childhood friend, for a proper Greek feast. The seafood is delicious. And although nearby Elias Corner is also a favorite of mine, there's something about the friendliness of Stamatis that makes it a go-to for me. The fact that the olives are outrageous, the saganaki is succulent, and the moussaka is a must-try . . . well, that helps. The grilled octopus and other Greek staples do not disappoint. And reasonably priced, too. Opa!
Wander Streets: How about wandering around in circles?
Start off at the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and Woodside Avenue at 58th Street, and work your way toward 61st Street. With bars like Saints and Sinners, Sean Og's, Cuckoo's Nest, and Donovan's Pub (which also has one of the best burgers in the city), it's easy to get lost in what I like to call 'The Bermuda Triangle of Irish Pubs'. But my favorite bar to get lost in, by far, is The Station Café (39-50 61st Street), my idea of a perfect authentic dive bar, not like the many fake dive bars that have sprung up around the city. Sadly, my favorite bartender Tony is no longer there, and they have, unfortunately, fixed the alluringly dilapidated awning out front. Still it's the place to go, sip your beer, play a game of pool, talk the night away with an old-timer, or just dissolve into the wall paint.
(For my favorite film that features the neighborhood of Woodside, watch Henry Fool. Outrageous and intelligent fun.)
For more wandering, just keep walking along Roosevelt Avenue, with its many neighborhoods and subcultures. The 7 train may be the "International Express," but you need to walk the streets to visit each country along the stops. Disney's 'It's a Small World' ride ain't got nothin' on Roosevelt Avenue.
Unique Treats: Purple yam is probably not something you're used to eating in your meals, much less as a dessert. In a small stretch of Woodside called 'Little Manila, you will find that the Filipino community is doing interesting things with the purple tuber, known as "ube" in the Philippines. Of course, there are many Filipino specialties to sample, but let's stick to ube: You can find ube sweets at Krystal's Café, as well as tasty purple cakes at the Ribbon Bake Shop (65-02 Roosevelt Ave). If you like the flavor, stop by Phil-AM Foods (70-02 Roosevelt Ave) and pick up a gallon of Purple Yam ice cream to take home with you . . . then sit on your couch, hug your stuffed Barney toy, play some Prince tracks, and get fully "purpled" out.
(FYI: Filipinos love to rock out to karaoke, as I've witnessed firsthand. So, for a weird musical treat, instead of listening to Prince at home by yourself, go to Filipino eatery Papa's Kitchen, eat some yummy grub, and sing Purple Rain with a small, but exuberant crowd.)
Historic Feats: As far as cemetery lore goes, few stories are as well-known as the theft of Jim Morrison's funerary bust from his resting place in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. However, you may not know that Queens has its own stolen bust mystery, for none other than the world's most famous illusionist and escape artist, Erik Weisz, aka Harry Houdini. Interred in the Machpelah Cemetery in Glendale, Queens, on November 4, 1926, a statuary bust was added in 1927, a very rare thing given that graven images are forbidden in Jewish cemeteries. The bust has been stolen or destroyed several times since 1975. A group called The Houdini Commandos placed the most recent bust there in 2011, and let's hope that it remains intact, so that aspiring magicians, fans, and historians can admire and pay respects to this revered master of illusions.
John Garay is the co-founder of BQE Tours: the Brooklyn Queens Experience, a walking tour company that specializes in the borough siblings of Queens and Kings (weekly Sunday afternoon walking tours of Long Island City begin on May 24). As an extensive world traveler, John has explored every continent except Antarctica, and has found that no city he has ever visited represents a microcosm of humanity quite like Queens does. Born in this borough to immigrant parents from South America, he has always been fascinated with the pockets upon pockets of culture from one block to the next. He thinks that the moniker of "The World's Borough" is appropriate, given how its streets and people display human diversity in all its intricacy and beautiful chaos.
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