Eat Your Way Through Jackson Heights


Jackson Heights is home to 167 spoken languages and quality eats. (Courtesy of Caleb Stine for The Fordham Ram)

I love flying into LaGuardia. 

The recent billion-dollar (long overdue) updates, better proximity to Fordham and less crowded gates aside, taking the LaGuardia link bus to Jackson Heights is a quintessential welcome to the city our school calls home. With an above-ground 7 train whistling overhead and taco trucks lining Roosevelt Ave as far as the eye can see, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would rather be on an 8.25 AirTrain to Howard Beach. 

Considered to be the most diverse neighborhood on the planet according to the documentary, “In Jackson Heights,” 167 languages are spoken between 66th and 94th St. and Roosevelt Ave. and Grand Central Parkway in Queens, making up the neighborhood’s respective east-west and north-south borders. 

Before the 20th century, the area was a marsh called “Trains Meadow” that was developed as an intentionally planned development for the garden city movement in order to attract upper-middle-class businessmen looking to escape the crowded confines of Manhattan. The neighborhood grew gradually between the 1920s and 1950s, and construction especially boomed after the construction of LaGuardia in the year 1941.  

Simultaneously, a large group of gay artists from Manhattan migrated into Jackson Heights, making it one of the queer meccas outside of Manhattan in the 1940s. In the 1960s middle-class professionals from Colombia and south Asia began to spread in Jackson Heights, taking advantage of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, which eased the process of arranging for the immigration of their extended families, and subsequently solidified the area as a melting pot to the highest degree. 

Jackson Heights is a foodie’s paradise. In all humility, it says something about a neighborhood, if it doesn’t matter if you take my restaurant recommendations or not. In fact, in Jackson Heights, I would almost prefer it. Prices are reasonable just as consistently as the food is quality, which is to say almost all of the time. 

I would confess to cheating on my finals before admitting that I ate at Chick-Fil-A on 82nd and Roosevelt and got a spicy chicken sandwich and lemonade on a summer day in 2021, which definitely didn’t happen. I promise. In Jackson Heights, there is something for everyone from absolutely everywhere. Gaining popularity during the pandemic for their COVID-adaptable business model, the Birria-Landia taco truck stays open until 1 a.m., after opening for lunch on weekends and dinner (5 p.m.), on weekdays. 

Situated on the corner of 78th St. and Roosevelt Avenue, their one kind of pork tacos, tostadas and quesadillas all go for less than five dollars each and the truck happily takes most forms of payments, including Apple Pay. No Fordham DCB just yet, though. Their crispy, yet somehow still soft, taco shells prove their quality even before you have to open your mouth. 

If there’s a long line, that’s fine. Odds are, any of the dozens of taco trucks on Roosevelt Ave. have better food than your local Mexican restaurant back home for less unless, of course, you hail from Jackson Heights.

Laliguras Restaurant, which is two blocks west, serves up great Nepalese staples. Their goat and veggie thali, and pork fried rice are among their most popular staples. This place is always packed, and Gorkali on 77th and Roosevelt serves similar dishes in a slightly more formal setting. 

While there is shame in eating from chains found in strip malls across the country, there’s none in opting for American options for your cuisine in Jackson Heights. 

Luna’s Kitchen and Bar next to Gorkali, serves any trendy food you would expect in Manhattan, but for 70% of the cost. With relaxing interior decor complete with several succulents and flowers, Luna’s is certainly for the less adventurous eater, but still retains it’s Jackson Heights flavor in other ways and always produces a lively and vibrant atmosphere. 

Jackson Heights puts you in the middle of it all in a way only it can. It’s everything,  everywhere, all at once, and will have you begging to come back. Or at least take a few tacos to-go for your roommate.