When Great Neck South senior Noah Sheidlower was about 12, his dad brought home a takeout menu from an empanada restaurant in Corona, Queens, and gestured to him to keep it in a safe place. The following week, his dad brought him another menu—this time from a Chinese restaurant. At 13, Sheidlower published his first Yelp review and has since written about 30 blog posts and numerous food reviews for local publications, including the Great Neck Record.
The teen has always been fascinated with world cuisines and just published a 176-page book on Amazon called An Ethnic Food Guide to Queens, containing 80 reviews of his favorite local eateries, representing more than 70 international fares.
“I had never before understood the difference between cuisines or the types of dishes eaten in a particular region,” noted Sheidlower. “But from a few takeout menus, I began a collection and dragged my parents across the Northeast in search of both takeout menus and amazing restaurants. By age 14, I had over 400 restaurant reviews on Yelp, and by age 16 I had upwards of 5,000 takeout menus all divided by cuisine in my living room. In search of these menus, I have discovered some amazing cuisines and met such amazing people that I continue to try new foods every weekend.”
Sheidlower decided to explore ethnic food in Queens since more than 75 different cuisines, from Nigeria to Mauritius to El Salvador, were represented in just a few miles.
“I love to cite an example that I found in Queens in which a Saudi man in Jackson Heights was carrying a bag of Tibetan momos while buying produce from a Pakistani market,” said the foodie, who can cook basic meals at home. “I mostly enjoy finding new cuisines and doing research on each cuisine’s geography and history to get a better understanding for it.”
The reviewer also chose to focus on restaurants from the nearby borough because he believes the chefs are less afraid to stay true to their roots and prepare food almost identical to how it’s made in their home countries.
“Walking through areas like Flushing and Corona feels like walking through Beijing and Mexico City,” noted Sheidlower. “I feel as though Queens restaurants are geared more toward impressing locals than tourists.”
The senior felt that his message—to step out of your comfort zone and try a new and rare cuisine—would be best told in a book.
“In around April, I looked on Amazon to see if there was such a publication, and I could only find two or three that were remotely related to my theme, but none had the goal of exposing readers to the hidden restaurants of Queens that no tourist would ever know about,” explained Sheidlower. “I always wanted to express myself in a creative and unique way that would be a testament to my love for food, so the idea for such a long book came naturally to me.”
He spent much of his free time during the summer writing, most days completing one or two reviews.
“The writing for me felt almost effortless since I really enjoyed what I was doing,” said Sheidlower. “I have been to many of these restaurants and connected with the chefs and staff, so some of the reviews wrote themselves. Researching geography and history to build up the reviews was also quite entertaining.”
The foodie loves trivia and competes in various quiz bowl and history bowl events, even writing questions for a National History Bee and Bowl. He also enjoys creative writing, music and visual arts.
At school, he is editor in chief of the Southerner newspaper and the literary magazine Exit 33. He is involved in Quiz Bowl and History Bowl Club, founded the Food and Travel Club, and participates in jazz band and pit orchestra.
Sheidlower’s fascination with food from around the world has fed his love of history and trivia, and he plans to create a series of similar books for Long Island and each of the other four boroughs.
“From studying these world cultures, I have gained a greater appreciation for the material I’m learning, understanding how food has impacted culture and vice versa.”