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May 10, 2008 05:53 PM

Best inexpensive Indian food in Manhattan?

Coming to the city soon and looking to try decent, but inexpensive Indian places. Just looking for good basics: saag bhaji, saag paneer, chicken tikka masala, tandoori shrimp, etc.

Due to time limits, I can't venture out into outer boroughs.

Street carts are fine... as long as they are reasonably clean!

Thanks, Hounds!

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  1. Thiru's dosa cart in Washington Square Park South near the intersection of West 4th & Sullivan Sts. He's there at lunchtime on weekdays. Not gourmet by any means, but cheap, yummy and reliable.

    3 Replies
      1. re: annulla

        Due to construction (the park is being renovated), you might have a hard time finding him, as he's been gone for months.

        He's supposedly back on May 15.

        1. re: kathryn

          Thanks, kathryn. I'll be in NYC in the summer, so no problems.

          What are your recommended items from the cart??

      2. The dishes you've listed are all North Indian/Punjabi. For this kind of food I'd recommend lunch at Minar on W. 46th. Some of the best Indian you'll find in NY at any price. THey have about 10-12 steam table items a day, and a combo with rice or naan is $7 for two meat and 1 veg, a buck less for 3 veg. In general, the vegetables are the best items. They have some of the best saag paneer and aloo gobi (available every day) I've had in NY.

        Haandi, a Pakistani fast food place on Lexington in Curry Hill is good but uneven.

        Outside of the dosa guy, I don't know of any good Indian carts in Manhattan.

        Saravanaas is your best bet for South Indian vegetarian food (the thali is copious, at, I think $12 for dinner of $9 for lunch).

        Chennai Garden does a good veg. buffet which features Southern dishes as well as southern takes on Punjabi veg. standards. Tiffin Wallah also has a good rep., but I haven't tried it yet.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Peter Cherches

          Thanks, Peter. Sounds like you know your stuff!

          1. re: Liquid Sky

            I second recommendations for both the dosa cart (Thiru is Sri Lankan, all of the dosas are vegan) and Minar. Minar is packed at lunch, though, creating a long line in true cafeteria fashion (which is how the food is served, btw). It's also very popular among those of the Indian/Bangla/Pakistani community working in midtown.

            I would also like to suggest the Kati Roll Co. (a small chain with several Manhattan locations), serving their eponymous product with a variety of fillings. One caveat: the rolls are only good during busy times. I have noticed that they often reheat already-prepared fillings and wraps during off hours, and they turn out super-greasy and less hot.

            Finally, you may want to check out the Tea Room at Tamarind for an affordable daytime Indian fix that is less than a meal but more than a snack :)

            1. re: vvvindaloo

              I'd also add Roomali in the Indian roll category -- I actually prefer them to Kati. If you stick with the standard chicken tikka roll, they're almost always fresh and juicy.

              1. re: a_and_w

                Great suggestions from you both... thanks!!

                1. re: a_and_w

                  I agree-the chicken tikka roll is a great "go-to." Used to live in the neighborhood and at them probably once a week for dinner. Their Channa Pakura roll is also good for vegetarians. The people who work there are also really friendly and funny. If you can sit down, though, Saravanaas is the best in the neighborhood, in my opinion.

            2. re: Peter Cherches

              Minar is the hands-down favorite among the Indo-Pak 20-somethings in my circle. Food's great and cheap -- you may have to ask them to make your a la carte orders spicy if you're not South Asian. IIRC Haandi has pretty good meat samosas.

              1. re: JungMann

                Minar has gotten boring for me. If you're in the curry hill area, try Famous Curry on East 31st, just east of 5th avenue. north side of the street, currently under scaffolding, but really, it's excellent, more generous, heavier spicing than minar and many of the other indopak steamtable places around.

            3. If you can go for lunch, the buffet at Chola (East 58th St., I think) is great. It's not expensive (because it's lunch) and it can take away the need to eat anything but a very light dinner.

              1. I have DREAMS about the $6 lunch special from Tiffin Wallah on 28th and Lex. Literally. I could eat from there everyday. It's South Indian, all vegetarian...anything they do with lentils is magical (and I don't - or didn't - really like lentils). Not that I'm an advocate of larger portions over quality, but holy cannoli, the AMOUNT of food is enormous, it'll put you in a happy food coma for sure.

                6 Replies
                1. re: ballulah

                  I wholeheartedly second ther ecomendation of Tiffin Wallah. I've had lunch there several times, and the buffet is always wonderful and always different. Also, the setting is remarkably nice, considering the prices. If only I lived or worked closer, I think I'd be in there every day.

                  1. re: ballulah

                    For those of you who have had the lunch buffet at Tiffin Wallah, can you please tell me how many things they offer? I've only been there during the weekend where I ordered off the menu.

                    And the uttapams are awesome there!

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      Miss Needle, it's just a hair too far for me to go in person for lunch at work, I always have it delivered. There are usually 3 vegetable curries (for the delivered "tiffin" you have a choice of 2), silver dollar sized uttapams, roti bread, and 2 kinds of rice. They also send you a dessert and a small, uninspired salad, but I can't think about those after I eat the the "real" food. HUGE amount of delicious food for $6.

                      1. re: ballulah

                        Thanks ballulah! Sounds like a great deal. Yeah, I never count those terrible salads as real food either.

                    2. re: ballulah

                      UPDATE on Tiffin Wallah... I left something at my office over the weekend and had to schlep down and pick it up (kathryn, my camera battery charger!!), and I used the trip downtown as an excuse to bring home takeout from Tiffin Wallah. This was my first time ordering from the menu and not from the buffet, and dropping by the restaurant to pick up. We ordered the chana saag, the palak paneer, the tomato, garlic and hot chili uttapam and an order of samosas. I wish I hadn't brought my dog downtown with me, because the restaurant decor and the presentation of everyone's lunches was very appealing. The car was completely filled with the most stomach growling inducing, heavenly aromas, but not your typical "curry" smell. Everything was delicious, not terribly spicy (but they weren't described as spicy on the menu), but lots of earthiness in the layers of flavor. If I hadn't been getting takeout, I would have loved to try the dosas, they looked amazing, but they don't travel well.

                      1. re: ballulah

                        At least you got to stop in at Tiffin Wallah! It surprises me how clean, sleek and modern the place look inside in comparison to a lot of the older Curry Hill restaurants. And yet the prices are still incredibly cheap.

                    3. Totally agree with Tiffin Wallah (they have a website). Unbelievable veggie southern food. It's fresh and tasty and the flavors are quite sophisticated. My souther indian friends (including a mom or two) loved the food and were so impressed by it. It's a cute place (not dingy) and the owner is super nice. They even deliver. I would definately go here. There's a dish (uttapam?) covered in yogurt, tamarine chutney, and a red sauce - unbelievable.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: soniasw

                        Uttapams are like flatbreads/pancakes/thick crepes with the "filling" cooked right into the batter. I think I had what you described, and it was the samosa chaat (there's also a chana chaat on the menu, chana is chick peas). It was broken up pieces of samosa drenched in plain yogurt, tamarind chutney (the dark red sauce) and cilantro chutney (the green sauce). It was totally delicious.

                        And I agree, the flavors are sophisticated and have a lot of depth and layers.