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Best inexpensive Indian food in Manhattan?

Liquid Sky May 10, 2008 05:53 PM

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!

  1. e
    ElenaRS May 22, 2008 03:00 PM

    Sirtaj on 26th between Broadway and 6th. it doesn't look like much but i think it's some of the best Indian food in Manhattan and a major bargain!

    9 Replies
    1. re: ElenaRS
      joeyz May 22, 2008 04:07 PM

      Yes, I was just about to recommend Sirjaj myself, Been going there for years (including a months-long stretch where I got lunch there very single day). Some favorites of mine include: navratan curry, egg curry, vegetable vindaloo, kofta curry, chicken mahkni, chicken jalfrezi, lamb vindaloo, chicken saag bhuna, the amazing samosas, and the sweet indian tea.

      1. re: joeyz
        a_and_w May 22, 2008 06:49 PM

        Sirtaj is passable, but I think there's better Indian to be had in the area. Minar is only a few blocks north, and you have all of Curry Hill only a little further east.

        1. re: a_and_w
          joeyz May 25, 2008 01:16 AM

          Sirtaj is far from "passable", and is way better than most of Curry Hill (including good places like the justly celebrated Pakistani spot Haandi), where the food also tends to be pricier. Believe me, I'm a big Indian fan, and have explored the options in the area. Sirtaj is a special place, and offers more overtly Punjabi fare than a lot of places in Manhattan (right down to the yogurt on the side). Had never previously heard of Minar, but it seems to be in the same price range as Sirtaj. I'll check it out. It's really not "a few block north" though - it's 20 blocks north, and further west.

          1. re: joeyz
            sing me a bar May 25, 2008 07:46 AM

            The Minar that's closest to your zone is the 31st St. one.

            1. re: joeyz
              a_and_w May 25, 2008 09:46 AM

              I'm a big Indian fan, too, and I lived down the block from Sirtaj for a few years. Yet I would almost always order delivery from Curry Leaf (owned by the Kalyustan's people) which isn't spectacular either but is better than Sirtaj, imo. Also, unless they've closed, there's a Minar at 31st and 5th.

              PS: If you love samosas, try the ones they serve upstairs in the cafe at Kalyustan's.

              PPS: Speaking of punjabi, have you tried Pakistani Tea House downtown? It gets criticized by some on Chowhound, but I actualy prefer it to Minar.

              1. re: a_and_w
                joeyz May 25, 2008 03:25 PM

                I haven't, but thanks for the recs. I look forward to checking them out.

                1. re: joeyz
                  Liquid Sky Aug 17, 2008 12:50 PM

                  Anyone have thoughts on INDUS VALLEY EXPRESS (midtown)?? I hear it's a MINAR competitior.

                  1. re: Liquid Sky
                    Liquid Sky Sep 6, 2008 11:51 AM

                    UPDATE: Recently went to JOY CURRY in midtown on the recommendation from another board. Big mistake. The food was horrible... even the bread. Had the saag paneer and chicken tikka masala... embarassing!

                    1. re: Liquid Sky
                      maltese Oct 26, 2008 07:51 AM

                      I eat Indus Express weekly...because it's 2 blocks from work and cheap (<$10 for a hot meal midtown). But it's average Indian food so unless you're stuck midtown with limited lunch minutes, you're better off eating at any of the above joints.

        2. s
          shivohum May 22, 2008 12:22 PM

          The Gujarati place serving food out of a converted magazine shop -- more info at Midtown Lunch -- serves excellent food at good prices.

          The Vegetarian New Yorker: http://vegny.blogspot.com/

          1 Reply
          1. re: shivohum
            Liquid Sky May 22, 2008 02:39 PM

            Out of an old magazine shop? I love it!

          2. s
            soniasw May 21, 2008 12:58 PM

            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
              ballulah May 21, 2008 01:33 PM

              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.

            2. ballulah May 13, 2008 11:54 AM

              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
                curranthound May 21, 2008 02:14 PM

                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
                  Miss Needle May 21, 2008 02:47 PM

                  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
                    ballulah May 21, 2008 04:08 PM

                    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
                      Miss Needle May 21, 2008 04:10 PM

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

                  2. re: ballulah
                    ballulah May 25, 2008 11:09 AM

                    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
                      kathryn May 25, 2008 11:12 AM

                      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. l
                    LloydG May 13, 2008 08:34 AM

                    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. p
                      Peter Cherches May 11, 2008 06:41 AM

                      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
                        Liquid Sky May 11, 2008 12:34 PM

                        Thanks, Peter. Sounds like you know your stuff!

                        1. re: Liquid Sky
                          vvvindaloo May 11, 2008 01:18 PM

                          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
                            a_and_w May 11, 2008 01:29 PM

                            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
                              Liquid Sky May 11, 2008 02:18 PM

                              Great suggestions from you both... thanks!!

                              1. re: a_and_w
                                rachelz83 May 13, 2008 02:00 PM

                                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
                            JungMann May 13, 2008 11:54 AM

                            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
                              bigjeff May 22, 2008 06:01 AM

                              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.

                              1. re: bigjeff
                                Liquid Sky May 22, 2008 02:38 PM

                                Thanks, jeff!

                          3. a
                            annulla May 10, 2008 06:24 PM

                            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
                              Liquid Sky May 10, 2008 06:39 PM

                              Thanks, annulla!

                              1. re: annulla
                                kathryn May 10, 2008 08:08 PM

                                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
                                  Liquid Sky May 11, 2008 12:34 PM

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

                                  What are your recommended items from the cart??

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