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The Hidden Gems of Forest Hills

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Bhargavi Patel

In Forest Hills, three establishments stand out, each offering a sanctuary for food lovers. Tikka N Talk located on 70-11 Austin St., is a beacon of authentic Indian cuisine, promising  a journey to the subcontinent with every bite. Just a few blocks from Forest Hills High School, El Rey Latino located on 63-42 108 St., serves a vibrant array of Mexican and Latin American flavors, while Coffee Shot located on 107-06 71 Rd, a recently opened cafe, has quickly become the neighborhood’s cozy corner for conversation and cappuccinos.

Tikka N Talk opened up in Nov. 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, persevering through days of deliveries and empty tables. “Even though dining was closed, we had enough customers for take out and deliveries to survive through COVID,” said one of the managers, Zisan Fahad. 

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Fryums, a traditional Indian snack shaped like little flowers, are vibrant chips made from potato and chickpea flour. A playful start to the meal, served with a trio of chutneys that range from tangy to fiery. Green chili and coriander chutney, date and tamarind chutney, and onions marinated in vinegar. 

 The restaurant’s attention to individual needs sets it apart. “We do special things for customers. There [are] people who are Jain; they cannot eat anything that grows under the land like onions, ginger, [and] potatoes,” Fahad mentions. For Jains, excluding root and underground vegetables is essential due to their belief that pulling up such plants harms tiny life forms and because the bulb is considered a living being capable of sprouting. 

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The restaurant prioritizes the authenticity and freshness of their food. They pride themselves on not incorporating any Western influences in their cooking.

“We even have the clay oven. A lot of places use a tandoori oven made out of cement instead of clay. But we have authentic clay ovens,” Fahad shared with The Beacon.

Some of their signature dishes include North Indian style tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, pani puri, biryani, and their brunch menus consist of all Indian street foods. However, they don’t make paneer bhurji the traditional way. “Usually paneer bhurji is dry, [but] we make it with a different style, with cream and gravy,” says manager Dilbag Singh. 

“I really like this restaurant because the taste and quality is the same every time I eat here. They have a unique selection of food,” an anonymous customer shared with The Beacon. 

El Rey Latino, another culinary gem, has maintained a robust presence in Forest Hills for the past 10 years. They have an array of Mexican dishes, ranging from breakfast to dinner options. Every day is different, never knowing whether the balance between dine-in customers and online orders will be equal. Throughout the chaos of the day, the employees maintain a resilient work ethic, dividing the responsibilities equally.

“We try to work as efficiently as possible. This way, nothing gets all scrambled and you don’t get stuck” says an employee, Erica Agosto. 

Working in a restaurant entices you to become a people person, even if you already aren’t. You see people everywhere, all day.

“Honestly, I like most of the people. Like their mood makes my mood. So if they’re happy, I’m happy” expresses Agosto. 

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The employees as well as the warm, cozy atmosphere of the restaurant allows customers to feel right at home, which is exactly what they aim for.

“A lot of Mexicans, they do appreciate the authenticity of the way it looks, the theme, the colors, the people that are here” mentions Agosto. By bringing the flavors directly from Mexico, the restaurant adds to the experience of eating there. “They have all those Mexican spices and flavors incorporated into their meals. And they’re all authentic, all their peppers, red hots, everything” she adds. 

 Popular dishes like the parrillada el rey are a testament to their commitment to traditional flavors. “That’s been a good seller here since they added it to the menu,” Agosto tells The Beacon.

A dish that can feed 3 and consists of grilled steak, chicken, mild pork sausage, pork chops, shrimp, and spicy pork. Another well liked dish is the Bistec Encebollado. Agosto shares, “That’s the grilled steak with caramelized onions. That sells a lot.” 

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Some less popular dishes include the shrimp dishes, oxtail stew, and mojada frita. “They used to sell a lot now. They still sell but not as much, I guess, maybe it’s too expensive. It is high up there but it’s really good shrimp” mentions Agosto.

 “If you really want Spanish food, a warm feeling, a sense that someone is going to take care of you like if you’re in your own home being served by your parents, this is a good place,” adds Agosto.  

In comparison to the two previous restaurants, Coffee Shot is a cafe with a very spontaneous back story.

“So my husband is a part owner. [He] owns the salon next door and he always wanted to have a cafe part to his salon. The previous tenant left and he had the opportunity to open up,” says the baker and the owner’s wife, Lauran Sassoon. The cafe is hustling and bustling throughout the day, and it hasn’t even been a month since it opened on Jan. 2.

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The cafe’s sleek design, with clean lines and a minimalist aesthetic, is softened by the inviting swirl of coffee aromas and the hum of quiet conversation. It’s a space where art meets the artistry of espresso-making, with walls adorned with images of coffee from bean to cup.

Customers can sink into the comfort of deluxe seating while sipping on expertly crafted cappuccinos or exploring the cafe’s selection of artisanal pastries.

“You could tell a lot of care was put into it,” says Victoria Evans, a customer and student of FHHS. Each bite of their flaky croissants or rich, flavorful danishes is a testament to the owner’s dedication to quality and craftsmanship. 

A piece of mouthwatering delight, the pecan pie sticky buns are their most popular item. Each bun is a

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generous swirl of soft buttery dough, topped with rich glaze. They’re so big they nearly fall off the plate. “They just look so big and delicious,” says Sassoon. 

Coffee Shot isn’t just a place to grab a quick drink—it’s a neighborhood hub where friends meet, remote workers find their zone, and the community comes together over the love of a great cup of coffee.

“We’re here to serve the community and to make the community really happy and to bring different things to the area” notes Sassoon.

 

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About the Contributor
Bhargavi Patel
Bhargavi Patel, Entertainment/Lifestyle Section Editor
Bhargavi, a junior in the Carl Sagan program, has a diverse set of interests that keep her busy. She finds joy in crocheting, painting, reading, writing, and learning different languages, and she's a bit of a TV show enthusiast, not hesitating to rewatch her favorites. Bhargavi's involvement within The Beacon allows her to unleash her creative side and express herself. Her primary aim is to create a stronger sense of community among the readers and ensure inclusivity for all. Beyond The Beacon, she is an active member of multiple school clubs, including the Filipino Club and Cybersecurity Club. She's also joined her friends to launch the Caribbean Club. Furthermore, she's a member of the Case Academy.
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