No neighborhood better represents the diversity of culture and cuisine in the outer boroughs than Jackson Heights. As a popular destination for those just arriving in America for decades, Jackson Heights is a patchwork quilt of immigrant communities. Featuring some of the most authentic South Asian and Latin American food in the city, the neighborhood has become a must-visit spot. Just an easy subway trip from Midtown, Jackson Heights might be the best reason to leave Manhattan for the day.
Little India, Little Nepal, and More
Ask any New Yorker where to get the best Indian food in the City. Without a doubt, they are going to mention Jackson Diner (37-47 74th Street). For nearly forty years, Jackson Diner has been the gold standard. With a menu spanning both the North and South of the Subcontinent and a lunch buffet, it is clear why this restaurant has long been a neighborhood gem.
In recent years, however, an increasing amount of Nepalese, Bangladeshi, and Tibetan immigrants have created a surge of Himalayan cuisine. A unique cross between Indian and Chinese elements, a visit to a place like Little Tibet (72-19 Roosevelt Avenue) is sure to expand your palate. Be sure to try momos, the signature Himalayan dumpling.
But food is only the beginning of the cultural immersion of Jackson Heights. The neighborhood is full of plenty of specialty shops. Talk a walk down 74th Street for the full Little India experience. The colorful and expansive Butala Emporium (37-46 74th Street) truly transports you to the other side of the world.
Little Colombia and Other Latin American Cuisine
Before it was crowned Little India, Jackson Heights was Little Colombia. In true melting pot fashion, the Latin American culture never left the neighborhood but evolved alongside with it. You will find some of the very best street food in New York walking down Roosevelt Avenue. Taco trucks line the street, but the indisputable queen is The Arepa Lady (77-02 Roosevelt Avenue). The brick and mortar incarnation of her insanely popular food cart, there is no better place to sample her signature Colombian dish.
If you have a sweet tooth, visit the Uruguayan La Nueva Bakery (86-10 37th Avenue). Among the mix of Argentinian and Colombian specialties, pick up an alfajore cookie or an empanada and pair it with café con leche.
For a cocktail, you almost certainly have yet to try, head to Amaru Pisco Bar (84-13 Northern Boulevard). Pisco is a specialty liquor, likened to a grape brandy, only produced in Peru. The Pisco Sour is so celebrated that Peruvians honor it with an official holiday every February.
A neighborhood as eclectic and exciting as Jackson Heights hosts a bar and performance venue that can boast the same. Terraza 7 (40-19 Gleane Street) opens every day from 4pm-4am, with performances nearly every night. From live music, to film screenings and poetry slams, it is always worth checking what is on the line-up.
As the epicenter of the Queens LGBT community, Jackson Heights also has plenty of queer-friendly spots. Friends Tavern (78-11 Roosevelt Avenue) is the oldest gay bar in the borough. Laidback and intertwined with the neighborhood’s Latino culture, Friends gets packed on the weekend for a reason.
A True Melting Pot
You cannot easily categorize all Jackson Heights has to offer as Little This or Little That. There is no better place in New York to witness (and taste!) all the diversity this city has to offer. You won’t be able to experience it all in one trip. But that’s just the perfect excuse to come back.