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If you’re a New Yorker, you may already be in the know. If you’re not, here’s what you should know: Queens, NY, may have the most diverse food scene in the world. Melting pot truly applies to the collection of foods and eateries in New York City’s fifth borough of 2 million people, hailing from places as far-flung as Bulgaria and Tibet.

We asked a couple of Queens food bloggers to give us the inside scoop on good global eats in their neighborhood. Joe DiStefano writes about his food adventures in Queens on his blog, Chopsticks + Marrow, and Lingbo Li shares her food musings on her eponymous blog, Lingbo Li. Both recently took Andrew Zimmern on an underground tour of their favorite foodie spots in their beloved borough. You can see them in tonight’s episode of Bizarre Foods America: Queens, NY: World’s Best Food Town at 9|8c. In the meantime, here’s what they told The Traveling Type:

TC: What gives Queens its unique flavor, so to speak?

Joe DiStefano

Joe DiStefano

Joe DiStefano: A combination of diversity and authenticity. When you go to a Nepalese restaurant in Queens you’re eating where Nepalese folks eat and work and getting a taste of what their food is like back home without having to travel half way around the world. The same holds true for Thai, Liberian, Ecuadorean, etc. In addition to all the ethnic restaurants, there are spots like Salt & Fat and M. Wells Dinette where chefs draw upon the borough’s many rich cultural heritages.

Lingbo Li: The gorgeous melting pot of immigrants! You can’t get quality food without the demand for it.

TC: Has Queens become a foodie destination or is it still off-the-beaten track? Is it the next big foodie destination?

JD: The corridors of Flushing’s Golden Mall have yet to be as crowded as Eataly. That said there is a growing interest and it’s not uncommon to see some tourists. I sincerely hope it becomes the next big foodie destination. There’s just so much great stuff here. Foodies who come to New York City and spend all their time — and money — in Manhattan are missing the boat.

LL: I think it’s always been on the radar for food enthusiasts, but it’s not yet completely mainstream. In college, people who lived a 15-minute walk off campus might as well have been living in Timbuktu. I think a similar geographic psychological distortion effect probably takes place [with Queens]. The LIRR [Long Island Rail Road] makes it really easy, though, so there’s no excuse!

TC: What are your top 3 favorite places to eat in Queens and why?

JD: There’s this Mexican food truck in Corona called Tortas Neza. It’s run by a dude from Mexico City who’s got more than a dozen tortas — overstuffed sandwiches — each named for a different futbol club. The Pumas, named for his favorite team contains everything but the kitchen sink and can feed a small family. And his tacos, particularly the carnitas, are stupendously good.

I’ve been eating there for more than 5 years, but Flushing’s Golden Shopping Mall — a hive-like collection of regional Chinese deliciousness — remains one of my favorite destinations whether I’m leading a food tour or just grabbing dinner. The Henanese hand-pulled lamb noodle soup on the upper level is amazing.

And I have to get my M. Wells Dinette fix, at least once a month. In fact I am going tomorrow. Hugue Dufour is a genius. The dishes here — beef tartare, oatmeal with foie gras, escargot and bone marrow tart, to name a few — are decadent yet balanced. And he’s always running bizarre dishes like cockscombs and duck testicles in veal broth with wild mushrooms and sunchokes encased in a puff pastry dome.

Lingbo Li

Lingbo Li

LL:  First, the lamb noodle shop in the Golden Shopping Mall on the first floor. Everything — from the flavorful broth to the crisp wood ear mushroom to the chewy, toothsome noodles — combines to form a heavenly bowl of WTF-this-is-amazing. Actually, a lot of things in the Golden Shopping Mall, like that beef tendon in the basement. We ate it on the show, if it made it in. Just give me a bowl of white rice and some spicy beef tendon and I would be very, very happy.

Second, M & T, an unusual regional restaurant for Qingdao cuisine. I haven’t eaten here for a while, and am due to come back soon.

And third, Jmart! I’m appreciative of variety, so food courts are pretty much heaven for me, if you couldn’t tell. There’s a fantastic place there that will make a giant bowl of spicy things stir-fried together.

TC: What’s your best Queens food memory?

JD: I’d have to say hanging out at the Hog Days of Summer, watching a 200-plus-pound Heritage breed hog get loaded on the smoker and then eating it the next day. My buddy Tyson Ho is the Chinese-American king of eastern North Carolina whole hog barbecue. Seriously, he is.

LL: My favorite memory from my childhood, and one of the few moments where everyone in my family managed to get along, was getting food from one of the food courts in Flushing. Back then, the Flushing Mall was more vibrant (it’s since been replaced by Jmart), and I looked forward to their shaved ice, the spicy noodles, the Taiwanese oyster pancakes and the takoyaki stall that’s since disappeared.

TC: What’s your favorite food town? Other than Queens, of course.

JD: Lately Chapel Hill, NC. The pies and whole hog at Allen & Son BBQ are wonderful. And the soul food at Mama Dips can’t be beat.

 LL: I love spending weekends in Portland, ME. It’s just such a chill, adorable little town with amazing food (Fore Street, Duckfat, The Holy Donut), friendly, crunchy people, and beautiful scenery. Internationally, I’ve had such amazing meals in the cities of Tokyo, Penang and Bangkok. Mmm, Asian food.

 TC: What non-food stop would you recommend in Queens?

JD: Šri Mahã Vallabha Ganapati Devasthãnam, aka the Ganesh Temple, in Flushing is truly amazing. It offers a window into another culture. If you get hungry, there are excellent dosas to be had at the temple canteen in the basement.

LL: OK, so here’s something that’s kind of awesome: There’s a super-cheap store called Pretty Girl at 136-21 Roosevelt that sells shirts and dresses for rock-bottom prices. A lot of stuff there is pretty trashy, but if you dig around, you can find clothing for mind-bogglingly low prices. I still get compliments on a print wrap dress I got from there … 6 years ago.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Travelers visiting Washington, DC, will notice something different about the city’s skyline. Although it’s closed for repairs, the Washington Monument is now lighting up the night sky. The National Park Service has installed 488 lamps on the scaffold surrounding the monument.

The rehabilitation is part of a welcome change. On Aug. 23, 2011, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the 555-foot-tall monument, cracking and chipping stones near the top and shaking the mortar loose. The lights are expected to stay on until the popular tourist attraction reopens in spring 2014.

The Big Apple more your style? If you’re heading to NYC, there’s exciting news for tourists who want to check out Lady Liberty. Yep, after being hit by Superstorm Sandy last fall, the Statue of Liberty has once again opened to the public after a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 4th.

You may recall that the National Park Service closed Liberty Island following Hurricane Sandy; however, the Statue of Liberty’s crown reopened after a year of renovations. Last October’s storm flooded and damaged New York Harbor docks and Liberty Island’s walkways, buildings and electrical systems, but the 126-year-old iron statue made it through the storm unscathed.

Looking for more sightseeing recommendations for these cities? Check out our list of Washington DC Attractions and Top 10 Attractions in NYC.

Courtesy of Gansevoort Meatpacking

You can’t beat the view from this rooftop pool atop the Gansevoort Hotel in New York’s sleek Meatpacking District. More »

Photography by Katie Hards

Today marks the 100 year anniversary of an iconic New York City landmark — Grand Central Terminal. For the past century, it has served as a major hub of transportation for daily commuters coming or going to and from NYC. It also serves as a major tourist destination and is one of the top 10 most visited destinations in the world, according to Daniel Brucker, Manager of GCT Tours. Today, on its official birthday, the Guinness Book of World Records will bestow the building as “The Largest Station by Number of Platforms.” So, besides that, what’s so special about this train terminal?

The building is steeped in the history marked by its technological advancements in transportation, ingenuity in design and architecture and urban development that shaped NYC to be the metropolis we know today. Just think about the stories of the billions of commuters and travelers who have come and gone through the building over the years. Who knows how many hello and goodbye kisses and hugs have taken place within the confines of the building. And we’re sure that even the items in the station’s expansive lost and found room come with their own unsolved mysterious stories, including an urn of ashes or a basset hound that have both, somehow, been left behind. With nearly 700,000 people served daily, Grand Central also boasts an on-time performance of 98%, ensuring everyone arrives safely and promptly at their destinations.

Photography by Katie Hards

Before their centennial celebration, I was able to partake in a very special behind-the-scenes tour to understand what makes this building and its services so unique. From the lowest depths of the building — which is the deepest basement in all over New York City — I, along with other special guests, got a glimpse into the enormous electrical infrastructure, both that power the station.

Prior to 1913, the trains coming to and from Grand Central were powered by coal, making any property along the open air tracks dirty and undesirable. With the introduction of electrically powered trains, the tracks could be enclosed underground, and the land above it (Park Avenue) became ripe for development. This area became, and still is, some of the city’s most lucrative and expensive properties.

Photography by Katie Hards

Photography by Katie Hards

In the upper reaches of the building, we sidled past busy men and women sitting in the Metro North control room. They were guiding train traffic in and out of the station by overseeing blinking lights and numbers on two enormous screens — leaving me cross eyed from its complexity. Luckily, we ducked into a door behind them to scale a couple of rickety ladders that led us to a small room. We found ourselves faced with the most beautiful Tiffany glass clock, which is visible along 42nd street. The “6” on the clock opens up to reveal the street below and Park Avenue leading up to the station. It’s a great view from a unique vantage point. We got another great view from the upper glass catwalks. This perspective allowed us to see the wonderful beaux-arts features of the building and to gaze closely at the ornate constellations painted on the ceiling. Peering down, we gained a birds-eye view of the expansive main concourse to watch the commuters, travelers and visitors from above.

Photography by Katie Hards

Photography by Katie Hards

If you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple before March 15, put Grand Central Terminal on your must-see list. MTA Metro-North Railroad — which operates the Terminal — is celebrating the centennial with an informative exhibit highlighting the history of the building through photographs, architectural drawings and interactive exhibits. You can even download a special app that will guide you through the unique elements of this centenarian landmark. Though you won’t be scaling any ladders or peering down from the catwalks, you’ll gain historical insight and visit some of the other unique features of the building.

Photography by Katie Hards

See what other landmarks, events and cities are celebrating big birthdays this year in our Travel Anniversaries of 2013 slideshow.

- By Katie Hards

Our 7th Day of Sparkle is from New York City, thanks to Instagram user vpedrianes. Keep sending us your best holiday lights photos using the hashtag #TCHolidayLights!

Our second Day of Sparkle comes from Instagram user Vpedrianes, because who doesn’t love New York City at Christmastime? Well, minus the crowds. This photo, of course, is of the iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Would you like your photo to be featured on our blog? Send us your best holiday lights shot with the hashtag #TCHolidayLights!

12 Days of Sparkle Day 2

A high-density, vertical city with tourists and locals from everywhere on the planet, New York delivers — no matter who you are or when you visit. But the holidays are a particularly nice time to head to the Big Apple, when the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the holiday shops at Union Square, and the ice-skating rink in Central Park put the city in the holiday spirit. Lined with iconic museums, Central Park draws class field trips, jogging locals, and Hollywood film crews all year long. At Union Square, students take to the streets on skateboards and New York’s premier chefs seek out locally grown produce from the farmers’ market. Shoppers can splurge on Chanel, Prada, and Gucci along 5th Avenue, or venture deep into SoHo, the West Village, or the Lower East Side for insider boutiques, where one might glimpse New York’s acting elite. Meanwhile, art lovers can bask in the grand museums of the Upper East Side or preview up-and-coming imagery at Chelsea galleries.

Throughout the city, expect to pay a premium for cramped rooms — a cozy 200 square feet is about the norm. But remember that in New York, it’s not so much about the room as the location, location, location, instead. For old-world grandeur, Midtown East and the Upper East Side are home to the Waldorf-Astoria, the Peninsula, and the Pierre, an elegant, historic hotel across the street from Central Park, which offers a taste of grand old New York to those staying in any of its 189 small — but freshly renovated — guest rooms. Hip downtown spots include such notables as the Gramercy Park Hotel and the Soho Grand, where guests can find an authentic but accessible taste of the trendy downtown scene. And the hotel still attracts its fair share of celebrities. Of course, you’ll also find outposts of every major hotel franchise — from the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental up by Central Park to the more down-to-earth Hilton,Westin, and Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

- Oyster.com Staff

More on the Holidays in New York City:
Best Holiday Shopping in New York
Best New York Hotel Holiday Decorations
Christmas in New York City

Host of Travel Channel’s Paranormal Paparazzi, Aaron Sagers shares his first-hand account of Hurricane Sandy‘s devastating hit on New York City.

Zombies come to mind. When the lights went out and the world seemed to shut down, as it did in my neighborhood near the East River in lower Manhattan, I automatically began thinking about the dozens of zombie flicks I grew up watching. But The Walking Dead this is not; instead, the source of my troubles is a Frankenstorm named Sandy.

Travel Channel’s Paranormal Paparazzi host, Aaron Sagers braves Hurricane Sandy in New York City.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably already know that the Eastern Seaboard of the US is still reeling from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone. Powerful wind gusts, up to 80 mph, have left more than 7 million people without power. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of evacuees have been rushed to emergency shelters; to help with disaster relief, consider a donation to the American Red Cross.

And unfortunately travelers haven’t been able to escape Sandy’s stormy grip. Airports in NYC and Philadelphia remain closed, and more than 13,000 flights were cancelled at airports in some states near the Great Lakes, where heavy snow is expected. And according to The New York Times, flooding in some areas has forced subways from Boston to Washington, DC, to shut down.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that we’ve put together a few helpful tips just in case you’re stranded or you need to reschedule your travel plans. Cut through the clutter and get your travels back on track with our hurricane safety tips — what travelers should do before, during and after stormy weather strikes.

Looking for more travel tips and warm weather getaways?

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From the Cayman Islands to Central Park, see where The Daily Escape took us this week.

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Amazon River in South America | Stingray City in the Cayman Islands | Central Park in New York, NY | Villa Oliviero in Positano, Italy

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