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Jackson Heights man offers ‘midnight’ food tours down Roosevelt Avenue

Photos by Donny Tsang / Courtesy of Jeff Orlick

For the past three years, one Jackson Heights resident has been showing visitors how delicious his neighborhood is once the sun goes down.

Jeff Orlick has been offering, by appointment, tours down Roosevelt Avenue for people from near and far looking to get a taste of the “real New York.”

The tour, called the Midnight Street Crawl, is one of three tours Orlick gives throughout the year. It is offered Monday through Thursday and goes from 90th Street to 111th Street. A spot on the tour costs $59, and reservations are required.

When he first started the “midnight” crawls, he was able to go from midnight to the early morning, but now, because of a new job, he tends to start the tours around 8 or 9 p.m.

“We basically investigate the street nightlife through food,” Orlick said. “We try to engage a community through the food.”

On the “midnight” tours, Orlick takes groups of two or more participants to street food vendors offering Ecuadorian, Colombian, Mexican, Dominican and sometimes Peruvian cuisines.

Although the route and cultures stay the same during the tour, Orick said he sometimes changes the interaction a bit so the participants and vendors can speak and learn from each other. He tries to make the tour two to three hours long, hitting about eight to 10 vendors.

“It’s like a jazz show: there’s a script and there’s notes, but we definitely go on tangents and explore,” Orlick said. “People definitely like it, they like how real it is. People say it’s the real New York.”

Most of the people who take part in the “midnight” crawl tend to be tourists, with only 10 to 15 percent being New Yorkers, according to Orlick. Others who reserve spots are new members to the community who want to get an idea of their neighborhood.

“I just want them to have a real connection, this is what I want to do when I go visit a place. I just want to come in and have a real connection,” Orlick said. “For me, the best way to connect is through food. It’s a great way to communicate with each other.”

Along with the “midnight” crawl, Orlick also offers a “Tastes of the World” tour and a “Queens Fiesta Crawl.” Both of these events happen during the day and are based on reservations. These tours tend to change depending on where the participants are from, said Orlick.

On Nov. 22 from 2 to 5 p.m. Orlick will also be hosting the third annual Momo Crawl, where restaurants and street vendors who sell the steamed dumpling in the half-mile around the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station will be offering them for $1 each to people who have a 2014 momo map. To pick up a map, participants have to stop by the Jackson Heights Food Court, located at 73-07 37th Rd.

“In Jackson Heights, in Queens, people are proud of their cultures,” Orlick said.

For more information or to book a tour, visit www.vayable.com/users/tastes or www.iwantmorefood.com.

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