Friends and tipsters have been sending me links recently, suggesting Flushing is again burgeoning as a dining destination, after a profound shutdown due to the pandemic. I hurried there on the 7 train the other day, and found that many outdoor dining shelters have appeared, especially in the northwest section bounded by Roosevelt and Prince. Most food courts have reopened (alas, my favorite in the basement of the Hong Kong Supermarket remains dark). But perhaps most important, there seem to be twice the number of stalls and storefronts selling snacky street eats than there were before.
The tips that intrigued me most were the ones touting what might be called “fun” food. Two new doughnut vendors were among them, offering approaches to the tire-shaped pastry I’d never seen before. One was located in the Queens Crossing food court, a meandering space with entrances on 39th Avenue and 138th Street and some very interesting vendors (though the place feels like a drafty hallway inside).
Sharing space with the Japanese ice cream stall Taiyaki, famous for its fish-shaped ice cream cones, the Dough Club describes itself as a mochi doughnut pop-up, referring to doughnuts made with rice flour and tofu. The resulting pastries are surprisingly light and bouncy. These are delivered in the “pon de ring” style (popularized by the Mister Donut chain in Japan), each doughnut made up of a string of small spheres, like a doughnut composed of doughnut holes that’s easy for sharing.
But the most remarkable thing about the Dough Club doughnuts is the wild decoration. The frostings are in designer colors and the garnishes are festive. The six choices, which can be had in a box for $16.52, or individually for $2.75, are named purple pebble (ube yam glazed), crunchy matcha, black sesame coconut, cookies and dreams (vanilla glaze and Oreo crumbs), bacon miso caramel, and berry lovely (strawberry and white chocolate).
The one I liked best was the matcha, which had crunchy rice sprinkled across the top and a slightly bitter, medicinal taste, suggesting it would make a great breakfast wake-me-up. Some friends I later shared the doughnuts with were a bit disappointed with the flavors (the ube wasn’t really “yammy,” said one, and I had to agree), but everyone was delighted by their appearance.
These were not my last doughnuts of the day. Not far away on the block of Roosevelt Avenue between Main and Union streets, I sought out Ugly Donuts and Corn Dogs, a narrow stall flanked by racks of handbags and scarves. Ordering is done by touchscreen on the counter, and your choices include four flavors of doughnuts and six types of “ugdogs.” Around $2 each, the doughnuts are all based on a single precursor: a deep fried twist of dough shaped like one of those ribbons worn to commemorate charitable causes.
These doughnuts are rarely eaten plain (though I did, and when delivered hot from the fat, it was among the best of its type). Instead, they are usually dipped in powdered sugar, granulated sugar, or injeolmi, a Korean soybean powder with an indescribably funky taste. I ordered three, including the latter, which made me wrinkle up my nose, since it added savory notes to what was basically a sweet dessert. But I kept eating.
The Korean corn dogs ($3.49 to $6.49) were what we’ve come to expect: a frankfurter covered in rice-flour batter, making the exterior exceedingly crunchy. Sometimes things like cubed potatoes were embedded in the batter, and the finished product was often rolled in sugar, and squiggled with a choice of sauces, including gochujang, mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise.
These, too, were great, using a beef-pork sausage a shade better than some of the other Korean corn dog places I’ve tasted on the Lower East Side and in Midtown. I refuse to roll my dogs in sugar, and prefer plain mustard as a topping. Still, the idea of embedding the batter with potato cubes is brilliant, like a hot dog sided with french fries, only better.
I’ve always liked the idea of eating my dessert at the start of a protracted meal; I’d already accomplished this by first downing several doughnuts, and was now ready to proceed with the savory courses. I’d noticed many small eating establishments had reopened or newly popped up on this bustling block of Roosevelt. A half dozen places offered dim sum, in particular, which seems to have migrated out of the big Cantonese banquet halls and into small food courts and small storefronts with little in the way of seating.
My eye had fallen on Dim Sum Garden Express, which advertised steamed rice rolls in addition to other dainty snacks. The rolls came in a broad range of varieties, but many, as with the one featuring chicken feet, are not as easy to eat as those filled with the usual fillings like shrimp and minced beef. I particularly liked the one with miniature pork ribs ($6.50) in the standard viscous sauce, though disentangling the bones took some (pleasurable) work. The green chiles stuffed with shrimp paste was another favorite.
Heading westward, I scoped out the new outdoor dining enclosures around Prince Street, and found them very stylish. I was jonesing for a bing — a favorite Beijing street pastry consisting of a round wrapper cooked on a flattop like a crepe, coated with egg, then folded over a crunchy cracker, shredded cabbage, multiple savory and incendiary sauces, and, in my case, a hot dog, which is a common filling on the streets of the Chinese capital.
On the way, I passed White Bear, the Cantonese dumpling favorite. Finding it open, after a pandemic closure, I couldn’t help ordering the wonton noodle soup ($7), knowing it would agree with the other stuff already in my stomach. It was just what I’d hoped for, the dumplings bulging with a plain-ish pork filling, and the pale wheat noodles as soft as they could possibly get.
My final destination, Followsoshi, was located in the Corner 28 food court, an offshoot of a famous Taiwanese restaurant around the corner on Main Street. The guy in the window was twirling a stick through a thick batter on the griddle. I ordered my bing ($7) and watched, fascinated, as he constructed the one I’d ordered, adding nearly a dozen ingredients in all, before folding the wrapper up, cutting it in half, and depositing it in a paper sleeve. Could I finish the whole thing? Well, I almost did, then added it to the leftovers that would feed me and a companion the entire next day.