The micro-micro-neighborhood centered around Broadway and Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst is one of the most diverse areas in the entire world, but Asian cuisine provides the best lunch options. The staffs of nearby Newtown High School and Elmhurst Hospital Center, as well as local real-estate agents and China Trust Bank workers, have no shortage of interesting places to nosh.
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• La Fusta
Grass-fed beef is king at Gotham's oldest Argentine steakhouse. Get the perfectly crusted gargantuan shell steak, or, if you're feeling especially carnivorous, order the mixed grill. With ample portions of short ribs, skirt steak, blood sausage, sweetbreads, and beef sausage, they offer practically the entire cow. Don't forget to liberally apply the garlic-and-parsley spiked chimichurri. 80-32 Baxter Ave., nr. Layton St.; 718-429-8222.
• Mie Jakarta Introduce an officemate to Indonesia with ayam goreng, a fried quarter-chicken whose crispy skin is coated with pickled chiles. Or, for something milder, try the mie ayam Jakarta, chicken noodle soup that comes in two bowls — one for the soup and one for a soft tangle of handmade noodles. The peppery, fried cassava strips known as kripik singkong pedas make an excellent alternative to chips. 86-20 Whitney Ave., nr. Macnish St.; 718-606-8025.
• Chao Thai Don't order the Tom Yum Goong soup spicy unless you have an iron palate. Even at medium, the mushroom-and-shrimp broth, infused with lemongrass, will clear your sinuses. Pair it with a salad of crunchy sun-dried fish that's been tossed with red onions, chiles, and a sweet marinade. Your companion, meanwhile, will have an exhaustive menu to choose from. 85-03 Whitney Ave., nr. Broadway; 718-424-4999.
• Singa's Famous Pizza Split a crispy ten-inch pie at this pizzeria, which was opened by Indians in 1967. There are 29 varieties of toppings. Get the hot pepper and garlic if you dare, or keep it mellow with spinach and black olives. 82-86 Broadway, nr. Elmhurst Ave.; 718-651-3190.
• Pho Bac
Kick the Monday blues or a midweek hangover with a fragrant bowl of pho bigger than your head for only $5.25. This beef noodle soup is Vietnam's national dish. The pho tai gau is chock-full of thin slices of beef and hearty slabs of brisket. Customize with shredded basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeño slices. 82-78 Broadway, nr. Elmhurst Ave.; 718-639-0000.
• Lao Bei Fang Dumpling House Northern Chinese fried dumplings and hand-pulled noodles are the specialty at this small, humble eatery. Fork over a buck and get four dumplings packed with pork and chives. Try a rich, fragrant beef stew with the noodles if you're especially hungry. 86-08 Whitney Ave., nr. Macnish St.; 718-639-3996.
• The Taiwanese Grill Man In front of a strip mall filled with unremarkable ethnic restaurants you'll find this cart, which perfumes the air with the aroma of well-seasoned meat grilling over hardwood lump charcoal. Grab a few cumin-and-hot-pepper-dusted chicken or lamb skewers and a grilled sweet potato. Broadway, between 45th and Whitney Aves., across from Walgreens.
• Sugar Club This Thai snack-and-video shop is filled with the scent of fresh lemongrass, and takeout containers line the counter. Go for the pork satay with sticky rice or sweet-and-spicy catfish curry with lime leaves. Top it off with a refreshing coconut juice. 81-20 Broadway, nr. 82nd St.; 718-565-9018.