It's in Queens Events Column
The Who will rock to town as a highlight to an incredibly musical week that includes a symphony, an international, multi-culture event, Ed Sheeran, jazz, and even a festival for people who play the saw (yes, the saw). There are also opportunities to enjoy Latin dance, European films, walking tours, and fly-fishing. Here's the rundown.
Highlights of the Month
Located just minutes from NYC's midtown, the Wyndham Garden LIC Manhattan View hotel offers guests the perfect proximity to the Big Apple without the hassle or expense of Manhattan.
The new hotel is located in an eclectic neighborhood of Long Island City with views of the city skyline, the East River and the Queensboro Bridge, allowing guests to take a step back and take in the city's true beauty.
44-29 9th Street, LIC
After Midnight: Indian Modernism to Contemporary India: The era following India's 1947 independence was marked by the emergence of Indian modern art led by the Progressive Artists' Group and their contemporaries. A half-century later, the year 1997 signaled the beginning of a newly globalized contemporary art world, while India experienced a surge of paradigm shifts, including economic liberalization, political instability, and the growth of a religious right-wing.
Ongoing until June 28
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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