You'll need energy to cut through the crowds and survive the parking at the U.S. Open tennis matches in Flushing Meadows.
Here are a few dependable spots where you can fill up before or after following the bouncing ball and watching the Rafael Nadal show.
La Baraka, 255-09 Northern Blvd., Little Neck; 718-428-1461. One of Queens' top French restaurants, La Baraka excels with traditional dishes such as roast duckling with orange sauce, rack of lamb and onion soup. Especially good: the meaty couscous royale, sparked with that spicy harissa sauce.
Il Toscano, 42-05 235th St., Douglaston; 718-631-0300. Consistent and inviting, Il Toscano is worth visiting for Italian food with some new American accents. Winners include honey-glazed duck, rack of pork, stuffed zucchini blossoms, crab cakes, duck confit, spring rolls, lasagna and tiramisu.
Park Side, 107-01 Corona Ave., Corona; 718-271-9871. The red sauce flows with flair at this colorful, very good restaurant. You may catch a bocce game outside while you're waiting for a table. Try the seafood salad, rigatoni all'Amatriciana, lobster fra diavolo, steak alla pizzaiola.
Joe's Shanghai , 136-21 37th Ave., Flushing; 718-539-3838. This crowded Chinese restaurant is known for flavorful, crab-filled soup dumplings. You'll also like the braised, whole yellowfish; squid in black bean sauce; and sauteed chicken with hot peppers. There's more than a side dish of atmosphere.
Marbella, 220-33 Northern Blvd., Bayside; 718-423-0100. Continental and Spanish cooking are the hallmarks of this veteran restaurant near the Cross Island Parkway. Consider the chicken Villaroy, pepper steak, and sole with bananas. The service is fine, too.
Ocean Jewel , 133-30 39th Ave., Flushing; 718-359-8603. Dim sum, the procession of steamed, deep-fried and delectable dumplings, buns and cakes, is the specialty at Ocean Jewel. It gets crowded and noisy. But the dim sum is very good.
Uncle Jack's, 39-40 Bell Blvd., Bayside; 718-229-1100. Dry-aged steak central: filet mignon, T-bone, New York strip, porterhouse, Kobe beef. Precede with a shrimp or lobster cocktail, accompany with creamed spinach and garlic-mashed potatoes. You'll be primed.
Kum Gang San, 138-28 Northern Blvd., Flushing; 718-461-0909. No need to worry about the time at this local mainstay. Kum Gang San is open 24/7. It's a destination for Korean and Japanese fare. Some favorites: the spicy cod casserole. kalbi or short ribs, pork tenderloin and sushi rolls.