Astorians are no strangers to eating and drinking outdoors. We have a century old beer garden at the historic heart of our neighborhood’s communal, celebratory spirit. We have an exuberant, overflowing outdoor cafe scene. We have the Indonesian Food Bazaar at Masjid Al-Hikmah packed with people and remarkable food every third Sunday during warm weather months. We have lines of folks waiting at the Souvlaki King of Astoria, El Rey Del Taco Truck, and the King of Falafel and Shawarma so they can eagerly scarf dinner down curbside.
Eating outdoors is a great part of the identity of Queens at large, from sprawling family picnics in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, to long lines in the summer at the Lemon Ice King of Corona and Citi Field, to the street vendors along Roosevelt Avenue, to the walk-up hot food windows in Flushing. This past weekend was the first weekend of summer, and I resolved to spend a good part of it hanging around outside stuffing my face at the newest addition to Western Queens’ vibrant outdoor food scene, the LIC Flea & Food outdoor market.
This was the second weekend for the LIC Flea, a new outdoor market with arts, antiques, clothing, food and drink vendors. They will operate the whole summer on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10am – 6pm, in a large parking lot at 46th Avenue and 5th Street in Long Island City. I tried a few of the many food vendors on my first visit there, and plan to be back to try them all throughout the summer.
It was wonderful to see Woza, a Queens-based couple I first met at the Taste of LIC event in early June, who create delicious, homemade South African street food. I had previously been won over by their Malva Poeding and opted this time for their home brewed ginger ale infused with lychee fruit. This is a perfectly refreshing drink for a hot Summer day, balancing the sweetness of the lychee with the compelling kick of fresh ginger.
M.Wells, in their perennially inspired way, harmoniously married food and crafts at their LIC Flea table. A stunning, generous egg sandwich that would cure just about any hangover was being sold next to beautifully handcrafted bread saws made by chef Hugue Dufour’s mom and uncle.
The LIC Flea also provided the opportunity for a first encounter with Hong Kong Street Cart. They describe themselves as creating “snack food” with Asian influences, but their large portions and bold flavors easily make an entire meal. I tried – and thoroughly enjoyed – their shredded Lemongrass Chicken, served over spring greens with buckwheat soba noodles, cashews and a citrus dressing as well as their Cold Peanut Noodles, chilled spinach noodles doused in a thick, spicy peanut sauce.
My last stop at the LIC Flea was Bibingka-Esk, a really nice Queens family who just launched their business selling Bibingka, a traditional Filipino sweet, made with sweet rice flour and coconut milk. What sets them apart is that they also make Bingky, new twists on the old favorite recipe with flavors like Cinnamon Sugar, Blueberry, Lemon Bundt and S’mores. I tried the Cinnamon Sugar flavor which combined the soft chew of the rice flour and crisp topping into a perfect little pastry. Bibingka-Esk plans to only be at the LIC Flea on Sundays, but they are a must try if you are there.
What I liked best about the LIC Flea is that it felt like a natural extension of Queens’ diverse outdoor eating scene. So head over and check it out. And also get duck buns on the corner in Flushing, souvlaki on the corner in Astoria, and throw back a liter of beer at the Bohemian Beer Garden. It’s summer. Get out there. Eat everything.