Anik Khan is a Queens-based rapper from a Bengali family background who often focuses his art and music on identity, visibility, and community. In 2021 he released a double EP—Denied, then Approved—framed around his drawn-out struggle for recognized immigrant status in the United States.
“Basically I wanted to split it up,” says Khan about his decision to create a double album. “It’s a journey about my immigration status and attaining my citizenship. So Denied is what my music sounded like before, and Approved is what my music sounded like once I attained it.”
But the citizenship journey is just the opening for Khan’s exploration of his experiences in America, even in a place like New York City. “Denied and Approved are not just about immigration,” he explains. “They are about the visibility and invisibility of Black- and brown-skinned people. … I think that invisibility is something universal that everyone experiences. And visibility is something that everyone experiences, too. I’ve never in my life felt comfortable in a boutique store in Soho, or at a five-star restaurant. But I’ve never not felt comfortable at a hookah bar, or in front of a food truck, or at a Queens night market. I wanted to highlight the fact that these [restaurants in this guide] are the places where we find community. These are the places where we do feel visible and we do feel joy.”
Khan is playing US dates to support Denied and Approved while gearing up for an international tour once pandemic restrictions allow. Meanwhile, he’s always ready to recommend a ton of his favorite NYC spots where he feels at home in the neighborhood and at the table.
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Anik Khan’s Favorite NYC Restaurants
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Villa Brazil Café Grill
Villa Brazil is a longstanding Queens favorite for Brazilian comfort food, especially regarding the all-you-can-eat buffet. “You want some of the best Brazilian BBQ in NYC?” says Khan. “You have to come to Astoria where there’s a community of Brazilian people here that keep the culture and cuisine alive. Make sure you ask for the spicy chicken sausage and the beef ribs.”
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Aladdin Sweets and Restaurant
This Bengali spot is just a few blocks from Villa Brazil on the border of Astoria and Dutch Kills. They do tea, snacks, and of course sweets, but Khan recommends diving deep into the menu. “I know you’ve had Indian cuisine,” he says, “but India is a subcontinent with an array of cultures and cuisines. To the east, you’ll find a country called Bangladesh which happens to be my birthplace! Our food is extremely different from the Indian cuisine you find in most restaurants. We focus more on stews, stir fries, and fish. Mustard oil is our best friend and we use it on everything. Check out Aladdin—one of the oldest and best Bangladeshi restaurants in the city. Get the chicken roll as an appetizer, the curry beef, ANY of the fresh fish available that day, and don’t forget the tehari! I actually think it’s better than biryani.”
Moving a couple blocks north into Astoria is La Vecina, “A Latin kitchen that has amazing food and drink,” according to Khan. “Don’t play yourself—get the sancocho, a cachapa arepa with carne asada, plantains, beans, and cheese. As for their passion fruit margarita? Wow.”
“Take a deep dive in Brooklyn and meet a Black Muslim family that is making halal soul food for the community,” says Khan of this Crown Heights spot. “Halal meat doesn’t mean only for Muslims—it means the animal was killed humanely, and the procedure was the cleanest it could be. Order the surf and turf fries, shrimp with grits, and ribeye steak. The herb butter-smoked corn and mashed potatoes are my favorite sides.”
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“Trinidadian food has to be one of my favorite cuisines. You have to travel deeper into Queens,” to hit Trinciti, says Khan—in Little Guyana—“but trust me, this place is worth it. They have the best doubles in the city. For those who don’t know, doubles are flat fried dough filled with curried chickpeas, tamarind sauce, and more. Make sure you get extra cucumbers and pepper sauce if you like a kick! The "Bake and Shark" sandwich on Sundays is their specialty and is absolutely delicious.”
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Khan’s next pick is in Elmhurst at Tangra Masala. “Have you ever had Chinese food made with Indian spices?” he asks. “This Indo-Chinese restaurant is some of the best fusion food you’ll ever have. Get the chilli chicken dry with manchurian shrimp fried rice—you can’t go wrong.”
It’s back to Astoria for one of Khan’s particular favorites run by the eponymous Chef Sabry, who came up cooking fish in Alexandria, Egypt. “I know many of you have had Greek seafood, but have you had Egyptian seafood? Think octopus, shrimp, branzino—all made with Egyptian spices. Make sure to get the shrimp tagine and any grilled fish. Ask for the eggplants as an appetizer, too.”