Jeff Orlick moved to Jackson Heights about eight years ago, but after chatting with him for a few minutes you would think he was born and bred in Queens. Jeff is known for organizing a host of food-centered explorations throughout the borough and other parts of New York City, most notably the Midnight Street Crawl and Tastes of the World food tours, Five-Borough Pizza tours and Real Pizza of New York App, and upcoming Momo Crawl which takes place this Saturday, November 22nd in Jackson Heights. He also runs iwantmorefood.com and has built a healthy following on Twitter over the years @JeffOrlick.
“It’s sometimes hard to make friends who are your peers in the neighborhood. People are spread out and there’s not much of a nightlife. So when I moved here I just began writing about food and eventually started a “restaurant club” where people met once a month to eat, talk, and make friends. Having an organized group traveling to different restaurants also allows for special circumstances to order things that may not be on the regular menu.”
Orlick grew up on Long Island, and recalls a pretty basic relationship with food (mostly pizza, diners, and Chinese takeout). But he was always a curious eater. When he landed in Jackson Heights – in the heart of multi-cultural cooking by people from all over the world – he realized just how much the neighborhood has to offer. “The businesses here really deserve the patronage. People just need an excuse to come check it out.”
And Orlick offers us many excuses. He began the Midnight Street Crawl about three years ago, leading interested groups along Roosevelt Avenue from 90th Street in Jackson Heights to 111th Street in Corona to taste what he calls “the greatest street food scene in NYC.” This tour includes food from Mexican, Ecuadorian, Colombian, Dominican, and Peruvian vendors, and occasionally hops indoors to participating restaurants. He also offers a Tastes of the World tour around the Roosevelt Avenue train station in Jackson Heights, where participants enjoy the food of eight different cultures in the span of 2-3 hours. Popular cuisines include Filipino, Thai, Ecuadorian, Mexican, Colombian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Tibetan, and Pakistani. Orlick makes a point to get to know his audience, and takes people to try food they have never before eaten. “A big part of what I do is make food more accessible to people; I introduce them to the vendors and help them figure out what to order.”
Next up is the third annual Momo Crawl, happening Saturday, November 22nd from 2:00 – 5:00 PM. Crawl-goers will meet at the Jackson Heights Food Court (under the marquee) where they will receive a map of all the participating businesses before heading out to the momo-makers. For those of you unfamiliar with the momo, it is a Himalayan dumpling commonly made in Nepal and Tibet, though it’s begun to spread to different regions, says Orlick. This year’s crawl will again sell $1 momos, but includes a bunch of fun new activities. For instance, GangJong Kitchen is offering dinner for two to anyone who can whistle after eating their mouth-numbing momo, and Little Tibet will give a momo demo, showing people how to make the dumplings at home. There’s been talk of momo t-shirts and tattoos, and Orlick hints at more surprises in the works. At the end of the crawl, everyone will gather back at the Jackson Heights Food Court for voting and the golden momo trophy ceremony, which brought much excitement to the event last year.