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Great Indian Queens

Just had a wondeful Indian meal in Flushing at Southern Spice. It's a really bare bones place with exceptionally food. I started with a serrving of Kodi Rasam, a southern style chicken soup, which was spectacular. Broth was amazingly flavorful - just the right amount of spice. We also had Pappu Kooraku, a spincah and lentil mash which was not too highly spiced and without excessive ghee. It was delicious as was the Chapa Pulusu a fish curry with a wonderfully rich, citrisy tamarind sauce. The Nilgiri Kurmam, a goat dish with coconut and mint curry was a good contrast with the fish. This is a neighborhood joint. There is nothing hip or happening here but the food. No wine or beer but the waiter pointed out to the deli across the street where I found KIngfisher. The address is 143-06 45th Ave.

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  1. This sounds exciting. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Ah! I thought we'd be first to review this little gem. We've eaten at this austere restaurant five times. The staff is very friendly and proud of their wonderful dishes. I recommend the Milagai Bajji, batter fried peppers, as an appetizer. Hot peppers stuffed with potatoes and deep fried. The Chapa Pulusu is marvelous, kingfish in a tamarind sauce. We truly love the Chicken 65, Mutton Chettinadu Curry, and the house specialty Hyderbadi Style Dhum Biriyani. The chef surprised us this evening with a dessert made with carrots and coconut. My children love the Hot Gulab Jamoon ala Mode, sort of like donut holes in syrup topped with ice cream. Wonderful! We'll be back again and again.

      Southern Spice
      1635 Hillside Ave, New Hyde Park, NY 11040

      1. Had lunch there today. Had the Kodi Rasam which, as you noted, was outstanding. (I wanted the tamarind-lentil soup but it wasn't available.) Big portions of chicken biryani were well seasoned and very good. I found the veg biryani a bit bland but it had a complex spice flavor. Chicken vindaloo, billed as extremely hot, was tepidly spiced, probably because I was in the company of "mild only" types and I was tarred by association. Still, the vindaloo was tasty. Really good mango lassi as well. I'll be going again.

        34 Replies
        1. re: oldfresser

          is there a website or online menu for this place? Thanks

          1. re: janie

            I'm afraid they do not have an online menu. They only opened recently and are catering to the local Indian crowd leaving a nearby temple. Well worth the trip.

          2. re: oldfresser

            We had the lamb vindaloo and requested spicy. The chef recognizes our faces and always makes our dishes VERY spicy. They are very accomodating. My kids love the mango lassi but weren't wild about the strawberry lassi.

            1. re: mushimushi427

              fresh made, eh? very nice.

              hardly get indian food in flushing but makes so much sense. any other interesting places nearby?

              1. re: bigjeff

                "Fresh made" is probably not an accurate description. It does taste "fresh" but the food is prepared in advance to a moderately spicy taste. The chef will add spice. He told us that he adds three peppers to our dishes when he sees us walk in.

                Southern Spice is located a block away from the Ganesh temple, near the Dosa Hut. I'm afraid the area immediately surrounding the restaurant does not provide much inspiration to walk around. Not too far away (7 blocks) on Main Street between Cherry and Franklin, you will find an assortment of grocery stores, spice stores and sari shops.

                1. re: mushimushi427

                  sounds great regardless. at most indian places, I just ask for some raw chilis on the side anyway to munch on accordingly.

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    Here's a little update: We tried this restaurant yesterday and I'm willing to go out on a limb and call it the best Indian restaurant in the U.S. In fact, I can hardly think of any better Indian restaurants I've tried during two 7 week trips to India. It's that good. We had Chicken 65 as an appetizer. The waiter couldn't tell us why they call it Chicken 65, but it seemed ironic that the 65 bus stops right in front of the restaurant (I know that it's not called Chicken 65 because of the bus, since I've had this dish in India). Anyways, the C65 was very tasty. We moved on to the outstanding Kodi Rasam; I had no better soup than this one on my recent 7 week trip to S India (and I'm a soup lover). We moved onto a veg dish, the dahll Makhani (I'm using spelling from the restaurant menu, btw), a wonderful Punjabi dish of "slow cooked buttery kidney beans". Then it was my favorite of the evening, the Nilgiri Mutton Kuruma (goat in mint coconut gravy). At first bite, the mint seemed a bit overpowering, but as I ate the dish, the coconut came into play and by the time I was finishing, I was ready to lick the plate. Highly recommended. Alas, at dessert, they only had enough gulab jamoon for one serving. My wife and I did a dueling spoons thing and probably inhaled the dessert in about 10 seconds (OK, I exaggerate, but just a bit). I told the chef/owner that he had the best Indian in NY; must have been the right thing to say as they comped us on the gulab jamoon. I also found out that the chef/owner is from Chennai and that he owns another restaurant in Manhattan, an all-veg called Madras Cafe (79 Second Ave); Manhattan Chowhounders seem to enjoy the place. To get to S Spice, take the #7 all the way to the end of the line; you can then walk the .85 miles to the restaurant or take the #65 bus from Main and Roosevelt (for some reason, the MTA trip planner doesn't offer this option). Since they don't have an online menu and people are sometimes concerned with prices, most dishes run between $8-$12 and two can eat well for $30, inc tax and tip (but not beer, which you buy across the street).

                    1. re: bruce3404

                      I read bruce3404's post and said 'yeah right'. Then I read the other posts and said 'well maybe'. Hey, I love to be negative. I also love south Indian food, and do not know of anything great in Brooklyn or Queens. So I tried it.

                      Good god, this place is amazing. I had a simple chana masala, chicken 65, an onion kulcha, and a vindaloo. Where do I begin. Overall the spices were fine tuned, delicate, and powerful at the same time. The bread was, well, sublime. In fact, it might have been the best chana masala I have ever had in NYC. The other contenders for 'best' are all out of the area.

                      In short, just go.

                      1. re: NYJewboy

                        Best Indian in NYC area? Sounds like its worth checking out.

                        1. re: deam

                          I went again today and their biryani is the best I have ever had bar none. They are also selling whole tandoori chickens for $9.

                          1. re: irishboy

                            Spouse and I went for our 2nd visit last night - even took 2 guests - and I had the Most Amazing Butter Chicken ever! Subtle spices that aroused my taste buds - with just enough pleasurable heat - this dish was richly satisfying. Owner, chef and wait staff are very friendly. I will frequent this restaurant on a regular basis. Better Butter Chicken than any I ate whilst in India. Definitely worth the trip to Flushing/Queens. Bravo!

                            1. re: NYJewboy

                              Hey Jewboy...were you in there last night (Sat 5/2) around 7:30? If so, we were sitting opposite you. Had my second meal there last night and I will continue to travel from Staten to eat at this wonderful place. At least three tables of Chowhounders in there plus an Indian family (though the father sighed and admitted his daughters' first choice was Burger King; guess that teens are the same everywhere!).

                              1. re: bruce3404

                                No bruce3404, I always get take out. Glad you liked it. I will be back (and back).

                                1. re: NYJewboy

                                  Oh lord. After reading these reviews, and taking a look at the photos, you are going to make us take the trip to Flushing. In the next few days. Or sooner. Thanks. Will report back.

                                  1. re: comiendosiempre

                                    Another thumbs up on the chicken dhum biryani - sounds dhum sure but it's great. Also be sure to order the fish curry and the chennai shrimp, both of which are fabulous. Spinach/lentil combination is appealing as a milder foil. (By the way, the Sri Lankan-style fish curry directly across the street at Bownie Restaurant is also very good and worth trying.)

                                    1. re: burton

                                      Off topic here, but another strong second for Bownie. I'm chomping at the bit to hit up Southern Spice - will do so asap.

                                      1. re: burton

                                        Yes burton, this sunday I decided to eat in the restaurant and I had the chicken biryani . The guy told me that they made it that morning and it was sitting for a few hours (which is perfect). It was sublime.

                                        Their breads are similarly amazing. That day I had the chana masala and something interesting came of it. It was maybe the best I have ever had, but it was a totally different style than the last one I got there. The first had a greenish lighter sauce with strong ginger taste, milder. The one on sunday had a dark almost brown sauce with much more pungent spices, lots of ginger still, but heavier and richer. I like the second style best. Maybe the best version of the dish I have ever had, and I get that dish all the time at every Indian place I go to. It blew away Chola, which was formerly my favorite, and at less than HALF the price it was a real bargin.

                                        Just go.

                                        1. re: NYJewboy

                                          One thing to consider for those coming from outside the area is that they close between 3:00 and 5:00 for the Tamil equivalent of a siesta. Not strictly enforced and they're sort of around but not really open for new customers. Of course you can always walk a few blocks south to the Hindu temple to kill some time. (Food canteen at the temple is pretty good too. Nothing like Southern Spice though!)

                                          1. re: burton

                                            That may explain it. I went there today (tues) at 6:00 and they were closed. Either they are closed on tuesday or it was siesta time.

                                            I did not know they were Tamils. Do you know if any of their dishes reflect this ethnicity?

                                            1. re: NYJewboy

                                              The sign in the window says "closed tuesday".

                                              1. re: NYJewboy

                                                judging by the names of the dishes and the ingredients, the dishes listed on the posts above seem to be mainly from Andhra (including Hyderabad) - not a common cuisine at all in NY (tho Saravanaas Bhavan offers some) - Tamil Nadu food is mostly vegetarian, except for the Chettinad community.

                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                  Apologies for any confusion arising from the earlier 'Tamil' reference. I may have read too much into the use of 'chennai' in certain menu item descriptions. Note to self: Confirm which South Indian state the chef hails from...

                                                  1. re: burton

                                                    Whatever ethnic sub-group they belong to, the food speaks for itself. I can think of no rival in the area (especially queens/brooklyn).

                                                    1. re: burton

                                                      As I mentioned above, the head chef/owner is from Chennai, but since he also owns Madras in Manhattan, he may not be in the kitchen every day in Queens.

                                                    2. re: jen kalb

                                                      I think outside of Hyderabadi, Andhra cuisine is generally veg., no? Hyderabad is a Muslim enclave within a pretty traditional Hindu state, I think. I've been to Hyderabad, but not elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh (end of a Mysore-Hyderabad road trip). There's an Andhra veg restaurant in the Bay Area (in Milpitas), but it wasn't great.

                                  2. re: NYJewboy

                                    Ate there for the first time last week. Best Indian food I've ever had. The Chicken 65 was utterly incredible. I had to get a second order to bring to people who couldn't make it out that night. One dish I haven't seen mentioned on this board that was also top of the line was the Kerala crabcakes with green coconut curry.

                                    Southern Spice
                                    1635 Hillside Ave, New Hyde Park, NY 11040

                                    1. re: davidjpearlman

                                      it's interesting, lots of positive reviews on chowhound for southern spice and the voice and times and elsewhere, but they are severely trashed on several indian site, nyindia and others--and their inspection is troubling--wonder about this conflict.

                                      1. re: janie

                                        Southern Spice was highly recommended to me from some Indian friends, so I don't think they are serving food that only appeals to the non-Indian population. I went myself with some Chinese friends and we all enjoyed our meal. My suggestion is to go and taste it for yourself.

                                        1. re: janie

                                          Janie, I can't explain the discrepancies, but I can say this, I tried it last night for the first time and I was blown away. I'm not Indian, nor do I have a lot of experience with Indian food, and I generally shy away from spicy food b/c it makes me sweat a lot, but I really enjoyed my meal. I went there with a friend for dinner. The restaurant was empty when we walked in at about 9ish, which threw me, but we were determined to try it. I was really excited by all the excellent reviews and talked my friend into trying it too. She is not Indian either, but enjoys Indian food, and was more than happy to try a new place. We ordered the fried and battered vegetables and the Chicken 65 as appetizers. I thought the veggies were just okay. I ate them with the 2 dipping sauces that were brought to us, but I wouldn't say they were spectacular. But the Chicken 65 was pretty spectacular. Now, I'm no spice expert, but the spices were both tasty and strong. Even the little spices and herbs that was left on the dish after the chicken was gone I picked up and ate. For entrees, we had the chicken tandoori and the curried goat (or was it mutton?). There were 2 curried goat dishes listed on the menu. I chose the one that was not made with coconut. The curry/gravy was just mind-blowing. I couldn't get enough of it. I thought the tandoori chicken was just better than average. Normally, I wouldn't have chosen that. But there's always next time! Service, by the lone waiter that was there, was excellent. (Okay, so we were the only customers, but still, it was excellent.) He kept bringing on the water, until I asked him to leave a pitcher at my table :) I ordered the ginger lemonade which was very well-made. The ginger definitely gave it an additional kick. But, you could taste that the lemonade itself was good. Now, maybe it's that I'm a novice and am still blown away by the sauces and spices that Indian food uses, but I truly enjoyed my meal, and hope to return soon.

                                        2. re: davidjpearlman

                                          OK. A few good old Indian friends came visiting some six weeks ago: 1 from Mumbai, 1 from Pune, a Gujarati born in Tanzania, and a guy from New Delhi who grew up in a Southern village. I know it sounds strange, but we felt like going to an Indian restaurant for food and have some King Fischer to wash it down, and Southern Spice was it. I do not usually recommend an Indian restaurant to my Indian friends: the guys work their cell phones to find a better advice from the local community. This time I did, and they all praised the food and I am pretty sure it was not out of mere politeness. So, chef Manny's food is now Indian-approved. :)

                                          1. re: davidjpearlman

                                            The Kerala crabcakes are a relatively new addition to the menu. This fusion dish is quite delightful, I have been meaning to post a picture but never got around to it. You should try to get to the lunch buffet and sample more dishes. Chef Manny always has a dish not included on the regular menu. My favorite is the okra.

                                        3. re: bruce3404

                                          It seems we'll never know why they call it Chicken 65. According to the Wikipedia entry on Chicken 65 (yes, there is one):

                                          "The number 65 is variously said to be the number of days taken to prepare the marinade or the year of the dish's creation. One account claims that the dish emerged as a simple meal solution for Indian soldiers in 1965. Others accounts claim that an enterprising hotelier targeted macho diners with a 65-chilli recipe and named the dish accordingly. It is generally acknowledged that no one knows which (if any) of these anecdotal theories are true.

                                          However, according to the Vah Chef on Youtube, Sanjay Thumma, the true story behind the name Chicken 65 is that the recipe originated in an army mess hall where the number 65 referred to the recipe number on the cook's menu list.

                                          It is also told that the name Chicken 65 is evolved from the age of the chicken used to prepare this dish. The original recipe called for Chicken 65 was prepared using chickens which were 65 days or roughly over 2 months old. Since this is a bar-snack, young and tender fried chicken goes as a good starter with wine."


                              2. I'll join in with the accolades here. Hit this place up for a late lunch today. I had the Kodi Rasam and the Nilgiri Mutton Kuruma, sided with naan, then took home orders of the Butter Chicken, Chicken 65 and Vegetable Biryani. Some very strong and deep flavors here. In some cases, as with the Mutton coconut curry dish, the spice sneaks up on you. Not so with the chicken soup or the chicken 65, where it's pretty much front and center. The biryani is the best I've tasted in NYC - delicious. The butter chicken was oily in the best possible way. Again, pure flavor. For me, the weak link was their naan, which is of a thin variety. Not bad, but not of the fluffy and chewy variety that I prefer. I'll try the garlic next time. The proprietor was very nice, told me that the Kodi Rasam is for what ails people during monsoon season, ie a cure-all for the common cold.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Polecat


                                  A great find! The owner Manny is very friendly and helpful. Had the Milagai Bajji (fried peppers), chicken 65, Nilgiri Mutton Kuruma (goat in mint coconut gravy) and garlic naan kulcha. Everything was GREAT! Not like your average Indian restaurant. They try to set themselves apart and they certainly do!

                                  1. re: Polecat

                                    I'm so glad you love this place. You MUST try the Chapa Pulusu, curry fish. Each time I've had this dish (at least 5 times) it's better than the last. Chef Manny has really improved the rich complexity of the curry sauce. The Lamb Vindaloo will knock your socks off.

                                    It's a good idea to ask Lovey, the waiter, for a recommendation on the naan. We have had the pleasure of sampling a few varieties of breads. Actually, we've also walked in and asked him to order the whole meal for us. Always with outstanding results.

                                    1. re: mushimushi427

                                      any good shrimp dishes you've tried? Are there any chicken dishes with just breast white meat? Thanks.

                                      1. re: janie

                                        We brought 17 members of our congregation to Southern Spice recently. Some people ordered the shrimp and chicken tandoori. They said it was quite good, must have been. The food was gone before the dish got around to me. The chicken appeared to be white meat from the other side of the table.

                                        The waiter is very helpful and friendly. If you ask him for a recommendation or have dietary restrictions they will gladly accomodate you. We've also been there with someone who is vegan and my mother who doesn't like spicy food (my birthday, my choice of restaurant). We're there often and apologetically asked in advance so they made a special accomodation for mother. We've begged them not to "dumb down" the dishes.

                                        Stop in and pick up a menu. Marvelously spiced food!

                                  2. I am not finding a menu online. I assume that's bc there is not one -- but pls advise if I'm mistaken...

                                    11 Replies
                                      1. re: grindy1

                                        did you mean to link or attach something?

                                        1. re: Jack Barber

                                          Jack, was grindy1 flipping you off or is he/she teasing you by withholding the menu for some reason ?

                                          1. re: Cheese Boy

                                            Sorry, I scanned the menu and tried to post it but it didn't post.

                                            1. re: grindy1

                                              No worries. Just went, and now I have a menu of my very own.

                                              It's all true. It's that good.

                                              Favorite dish = the fried peppers. Not that everything else wasn't great. Never had biryani that was anything but forgettable, but theirs is tremendo. Minty goat, butter chk, chk 65, chana masala, etc.

                                              Palak Paneer was the only kind of average item. Not to stir up a Mina's debate but her version blows this one out of the water.

                                              Everything else amazing though. Well worth the trip.

                                              1. re: Jack Barber

                                                I havent been yet - am excited by this place serving rarer in NY south indian dishes - I hope that that doesnt get washed away by a demand for more generic north indian stuff like butter chicken and palak paneer.

                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                  Your purism is super admirable.

                                                  The butter chicken however was a pretty fantastic rendition. I don't think you need to worry yourself too much about them taking their eye off the ball.

                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                    I agree jen. I think the answer is to keep telling them not to dilute with expectations of appealing to non-Indians. The owner mentioned something about it to me. At the risk of being repetitious, it is well worth it to let them know how much we appreciate the authenticity and intensity of the food.

                                                    1. re: NYJewboy

                                                      On the flip side I asked for my order to be prepared without spice -- I can't handle spice or really flavor of any kind -- and they were totally cool about it!

                                                2. re: grindy1

                                                  grindy - I've had this happen too, and it turned out the file was too big (2 MB+). If you have time, please rescan at fewer dpi and try again.

                                        2. Add me as a fan.

                                          They're starting a daily buffet on May 10.
                                          (Closed Tuesdays)

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: Joe MacBu

                                            ... from 1-3 and they will charge $7.99 on the weekdays and $9.99 on weekends. i was there last night.

                                            1. re: stuartlafonda

                                              Do you think the buffet is as good as ala carte items off the menu?

                                              1. re: NYJewboy

                                                I ate a la carte. I hope the buffet will be diverse so I can sample some things I may not otherwise order as the menu has many items I am not familiar with. It is similar to the situation at Kerala Kitchen where many of the regional dishes are unfamiliar and the weekend buffet allowws the opportunity to experiment. I don't want to rehash the dispute about freshly made when comes to this cuisine but many dishes are best long simmered so a buffet should not result in a degrading of the items, as long as they keep fresh naans coming.

                                                1. re: stuartlafonda

                                                  I agree about the long simmering when it comes to spices, do I ever.

                                                  What's the deal with Kerala Kitchen these days? I thought they were out of business. I went a few times and there was no food available. The times I got food it was great, and unusual.

                                                  1. re: NYJewboy

                                                    The one time I went to Kerala Kitchen I was very disappointed.

                                              2. If you were to walk in on a weekday evening (not a Tuesday evening, of course), how big a party could you bring without causing consternation? A dozen? Do they take reservations? How about weekend evenings?

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: DaveCook

                                                  It's a small place. For a dozen, they could push a few tables together. I don't think you need reservations, but, if you're bringing a group, I'd definitely suggest calling ahead. I'm pretty sure the proprietor would have some good suggestions.

                                                  1. re: Polecat

                                                    While it is a smallish place, I think they could probably accommodate you. One wall has bench seating along it which makes it easy for large groups. I didn't count tables, but I think there were at least four along that wall, which would easily fit 16. That's if no one else is there, of course. Call ahead; they seem friendly and willing to please.

                                                    I found out that they also own Dosa Hutt down the block.

                                                    Has anyone tried the Sri Lankan place across the street?

                                                    1. re: Joe MacBu

                                                      "Has anyone tried the Sri Lankan place across the street?"

                                                      Several times, Joe. And I love the place. It's one of the most overlooked joints on this board. The kulti roti, which consists of roti mashed with veggies and the meat of your choice, is one of my favorite cheap lunches in the whole city. Very spicy as well. I also recommend their fish curry. The place is even smaller than Southern Spice, it's usually empty and dark during the day. The interior has all the charm of a car service vestibule. But I'll be damned if it isn't one of my favorite eateries in the whole city. Service has always been nice as well.

                                                      1. re: Polecat

                                                        Name of the restaurant is Bownie, by the way.

                                                        1. re: Polecat

                                                          Thanks for the tips. I'd stopped in to get a fix for my appam craving, only to find out that it has to be ordered a day in advance.

                                                            1. re: NYJewboy

                                                              Call them the day before you go and ask them to get the appam (aka hoppers) batter ready for your arrival. Unfortunately, I don't think they put toddy in it, but should be close enough if they let the batter ferment.

                                                      2. re: DaveCook

                                                        I let Manny know that we were bringing a dozen people a couple days in advance because the place is a little small. They pushed a few tables together and we were fine even though we turned out to be a party of 17 people. It was a Friday night.

                                                        1. re: DaveCook

                                                          Tried Southern Spice for the first time after reading all the glowing reviews and went for the lunch buffet. It was very good, particularly enjoyed the chicken biryani. Nice spicy kick that kind of creeps up on you. My only complaint was that all of the meat dishes were chicken (biryani, chicken curry, butter chicken, and tandoori chicken). I would have enjoyed more variety (e.g., goat curry, etc). Overall, I thought the meal very tasty, definitely will return to order a la carte. It's a shame that we were there during prime lunch hour and were the only customers. Perhaps it's the location, but sad to see.

                                                          1. re: queenseats

                                                            is only the lunch buffet available at lunch, or can you order from the menu? Was any of the chicken white meat? Thanks.

                                                            1. re: janie

                                                              I didn't even think to order off the menu given how many options there were on the $8 buffet :) From what I recall, the buffet consisted of salad, lentil cakes (not sure of the name, they resemble cookies), okra, ck biryani, ck curry, ck tandori, butter ck, a sag dish, a dal dish, payasam for dessert and of course the rice and fresh naan. I would say that the highlight for me was the biryani. I don't recall any of the chicken dishes made strictly with white meat though the butter chicken may have been.

                                                            2. re: queenseats

                                                              what kind of variety of vegetable dishes did they have?

                                                              I am cynical about buffets and chicken dishes since tandoori chicken so easily get recycled into sauced dishes.

                                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                                Interesting take on chicken in Indian restaurants because my chief complaint about their chicken tikka masala is that it had not been cooked in the tandoori oven. It had no spice rub on it or char. That is not to say though that I want all my chicken dishes to contain recycled tandoori chicken. Other then tikka masala I rarely order chicken dishes, interesting observation though.

                                                          2. Went last Sun. Had a great meal. Ordered several of the dishes rec'd above. Told the waiter I'd read about the restaurant on line and he said, " On Chowhound?. Yeah , all those people come in and basically all order the same dishes." We, being some of "those people", vowed to expand our choices next visit.

                                                            15 Replies
                                                            1. re: toby1355

                                                              My only complaint is the inconsistent service. I was in twice before and had great service. The waiter was incredibly helpful, answered all of our questions and made good recommendations.

                                                              I was back this week with a group of 9, 7 of whom had never been there before. We had a reservation so they were expecting us and there were only two other customers during most of our meal. Unfortunately there was a different waiter -- much younger and he had little interest in answering any of our questions. What few he did answer he got wrong. My friends wound up asking me and I had only tried 6 or 7 dishes so couldn't answer all of them.

                                                              The food was great. We ordered 2 apps and 11 entrees. Honestly, all 11 entrees were superb. The 2 apps were the only weak points. We weren't impressed by the samosa chat or the stuffed fried peppers. I have no basis of comparison for some dishes like the shark scramble but the Chicken 65 was infinitely better than the 2 versions of the identical dish we had in Chennai.

                                                              The problems were that it took forever for the waiter to take our order, then over 20 minutes for him to bring 2 apps. Someone asked how many samosas came in one order and he got that wrong. Then it took over half an hour for our main courses to arrive. Only once did he come by to refill our water. And not once did he ask if everything was OK or if we needed anything else. Nor did he ever smile. I felt as if he preferred that we weren't there.

                                                              Finally, the biggest problem was when the check came. we had asked what was included with our entrees, did we have a choice of naan or rice? All 9 of us understood the answer that rice was included. (My wife and I were not charged for rice on our first two visits.) We ordered a couple of breads but were surprised to find a charge for the rice. when I questioned it, I was told that the rice is included only on the vegetarian entrees. When I said that wasn't what he said and that I hadn't been charged in my prior visits, I just got a blank stare. I felt bad for him actually. If we had known, we would have ordered more breads and a lemon rice and paid more. I really want them to succeed since the food is so good.

                                                              Basically we had a great meal but I doubt my friends from Manhattan will make the trek out there again because of the unfriendly service, which is too bad.

                                                              1. re: el jefe

                                                                sorry about the bad service, which is never fun. i've been treated well on my two trips. but just out of curiosity, do you think said friends would write off peter luger on the basis of unfriendly service (at 10X the price) or difara's on the basis of sloooooooooowness?

                                                                1. re: david sprague

                                                                  The service on my first two visits was excellent.
                                                                  I know you love DiFara's but yes, we might write them off. Luger's, probably not. I've actually never had unfriendly service at Peter Lugers in any of my 10 or so visits.
                                                                  The difference though is that both of those places are extremely busy. Southern Spice was almost empty, yet we felt like we were bothering them.

                                                                  1. re: el jefe

                                                                    i guess i was just playing devil's advocate....no, i was certainly doing so. i just always find sliding scales weird (it often seems that the more pricey and trendy a place is, the more willing people are to accept or even invite abuse). i am sorry that the service was bad enough on this visit to cut into the pleasure of what you cited as very good food

                                                                    1. re: el jefe

                                                                      Is this an official standard now," Manhattan Trek Worthy"?
                                                                      I happen to think that most of the food is not great but have no service issue. The service is neither quick nor efficient but it is acceptable. We have never been charged for rice and the waiter usually offers us more rice when we finish that tiny bowl they use. Water is refilled before the glass is empty, food is delivered in a reasonable amount of time and last time we ate there they comped us the dessert, a carrot halwa that was so sweet that the four of us has no interest in finishing. The problem may be that I have never seen more then two guys doing the actual cooking and suspect that you overwhelmed the kitchen.

                                                                      1. re: stuartlafonda

                                                                        Do you like somewhere else better? You say it and I'll try it.

                                                                        1. re: stuartlafonda

                                                                          "The problem may be that I have never seen more then two guys doing the actual cooking and suspect that you overwhelmed the kitchen."

                                                                          I was thinking the exact same thing. A group of 9 descends on a small place and orders lots of dishes at once. I've had the same experience at other restaurants with limited kitchens.

                                                                          1. re: stuartlafonda

                                                                            Well, that was why I called ahead to let them know we would be a group of 9. Since the only other people eating in the restaurant when we arrived already had their food, there's no valid excuse for having to wait nearly an hour for our entrees. You can't tell me that Palak Paneer, Chicken Vindaloo and Shark Scramble aren't prepared ahead of time.

                                                                            As for the rice, as I said, on my first two visits we weren't charged. The menu is ambiguous. Under the vegetarian section of the menu it says "all curry entrees served with plain white rice". It doesn't say anything after the non-veg items. And, on my first two visits I was offered more rice too. That's why I was surprised to see the rice on the bill, especially after the waiter said "rice was included". Now I'm glad my friends decided to subtract the cost of the rice from his tip. I felt bad at first. Now I feel like I was ripped off.

                                                                            And yes, some restaurants are worth only a 5 minute walk. Some are worth a half hour trip. And others are "Manhattan Trek Worthy." btw, I live in Queens.

                                                                            I love the food. I hate the waiter we had on Wednesday.

                                                                            1. re: el jefe

                                                                              I really hope the palak paneer is NOT prepared before the order is placed, Mina does not and it is among the many reasons that meals there take so long but are worth the wait. By the way, I found the PP to be way to creamy, Mina kills that version. Same for the shark scramble, prepared in advance?. These are not stewed items that require long simmering. Do you really think they did anything different in food preparation in advance of your arrival? I'm just pointing out that this appears to be a somewhat simple operation that can be easily overwhelmed resulting in what, a delay of 15 minutes from when the entree should have been deliverd. I can't believe that you are so upset about the "rice charge". Stuff like that happens in restaurants all the time and considering the low cost and large portion size at this place you should not let it bother you. Even with the "overcharge" was it not still a bargain? Did you really order less bread or rice to hold down the cost?
                                                                              As for the Manhattan comment, I don't know if it is a time issue or a mindset. If the food was as great as you believe why on earth would they not go to Fluishing. You say you had been there twice before without a waiter problem, does one bad waiter experience eclipse the greatness of the food?
                                                                              Enjoy, from a born and raised Queens kid.

                                                                              1. re: stuartlafonda

                                                                                "I can't believe that you are so upset about the "rice charge". Stuff like that happens in restaurants all the time"

                                                                                I don't know where you eat, but in 10,000 meals over the last 30 years, that's never happened to me. I find it hard to believe that it happens "all the time" that you ask if something is included in the price, the answer is "yes" and then they sneak it on the bill.

                                                                                It's too bad you made the Mina comparison. I won't go back to Mina. Neither will anyone I know. The food is inconsistent. the service is unacceptable. I'd like to think that Southern Spice (or any restaurant for that matter) can handle 9 patrons at once. But since more than one of you have told me they probably can't, now I know. In the future, if there is more than 2 or 3 people in there when I get there, I'll go across the street to Bownie Restaurant.

                                                                                As for the Manhattan comment, it's purely a time issue. My friends all know there is plenty of good food in Queens, but if they're going to spend close3 hours roundtrip on public transportation (2 trains and nearly a mile walk) they would prefer good service in addition to good food.

                                                                                But there's obviously a simple solution. They have two waiters who work different days. Next time I'm in, I'll find out the schedule.

                                                                                1. re: el jefe

                                                                                  If the service were better they would spend three hours to get to Southern Spice? Hard to believe the service was so bad that the waiter would be the deal breaker. Even harder to believe someone would travel three hours to eat at this place even if the service were perfect. The "stuff" I'm refering to is confusion on a bill that may include extra charges for side items, or refills of items. Mistakes are made by waiters, they are only human. I doubt it was intentionally done to steal a few of your dollars for extra rice. As for Mina, I know plenty of people that enjoy the place, although I know a few who don't. I will put up with a lot for great food, Southern Spice has more problems then the waiters.

                                                                    2. re: toby1355

                                                                      ... he said, " On Chowhound?. Yeah , all those people come in and basically all order the same dishes."

                                                                      And there, in a nutshell, is the problem with asking "What should I order?" and then following the recommendations to the letter. I'll mix and match my order, taking some recommendations and striking out on my own.

                                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                        Bob: maybe we should compile a list of 'those dishes' and venture forth from them. I would be interested to find out what dishes he is talking about. I think vindaloo, chicken 65, chana masala, biryani...what else?

                                                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                          Nilgiri Kurmam (goat mint curry), Milagai Bajji (stuffed pepper appetizer), Lamb Vindaloo and Chicken 65 are my favs. I like it hot.

                                                                          There are many other wonderful dishes on the menu which are less hot and delicious. I also had a delicious dal which was dark and complex, since I cannot remember the name of the dish I'll have to return to Southern Spice. Oh well, I'm always looking for an excuse to go. ;-)

                                                                          1. re: mushimushi427

                                                                            Might that have been Tarkha Dhall (seasoned slow cooked red lentils)?

                                                                      2. I made my third trip out there this week. Manhattan worthy? Hell, I wish I were just coming from Manhattan rather than Staten Island! Anyways, tried the lamb vindaloo this time and it was better than any I had during a recent trip to Goa. The one constant during my trips is the Kodi Rasam. I believe I could eat that three times a day. Waiter suggested that I come on the weekend for the buffet, since it's a bigger buffet than that offered during the week.

                                                                        1. We tried the buffet twice. What a treat! Dishes which are not normally on the menu were part of the buffet. I had this wonderful okra, onion, lentil dish topped with coconut. Scrumptious!

                                                                          During the week the buffet costs $7.99 and on the weekends the cost is $8.99. Well worth the price to try several dishes.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: mushimushi427

                                                                            Did you try during the week and the weekend to confirm what bruce3404 was told by the waiter?
                                                                            Would you say the buffet is equal to a la carte or very close in terms of quality and also are some or most of the choicest dishes available?

                                                                            1. re: dietndesire

                                                                              I tried once during the week and once during the weekend. The weekend buffet probably had two extra main dishes. During the week there was a choice of two meat courses, one soup, white rice and three vegetable dishes plus a salad and dessert. The buffet is most definitely equal to the a la carte dishes in terms of quality. The advantage of the buffet is the very low price and you get to sample a variety of dishes. Also Chef Manny adds a dish to the buffet not on the menu. My 15 year old daughter is begging to go to the buffet today. I'll report back.

                                                                            2. re: mushimushi427

                                                                              I tried the okra dish you described, and it was shockingly good! Also, I enjoy the way the stuff behaves: they are apparently very knowledgable and proud of the food served: an extremely good sign! The service was outstanding, BTW.

                                                                              I must admit I don't know much about the Southern Indian food: I just happened to work (and eat lunch) on Curry Hill at some point. This place goes onto the shortlist.

                                                                              1. re: diprey

                                                                                The okra dish was outstanding! I was in heaven. Last night we had the baby eggplants in a tamarind sauce. Wow!

                                                                              2. re: mushimushi427

                                                                                I tried the weekend buffet and was very disappointed. While the quality was very good, there was too much northern stuff offered. For instance, I wasn't expecting to find palak paneer, dal makhani and butter chicken. I could have just gone to Jackson Heights if I wanted those dishes. The handful of southern dishes offered were all great, but I much prefer ordering off their menu instead. (They allow ordering a la carte during buffet hours).

                                                                                I voiced my displeasure regarding the lack of enough southern dishes. I've been promised that it'll get better in the next weeks. But for my buck, the bang is in knowledgeable ordering from the menu.

                                                                                1. re: Joe MacBu

                                                                                  The thing is, outside of Udupi-style snacks and Thalis, southern places tend to serve veg. dishes that are based on Punjabi-style. This is also true in much of South India--the typically Southern dishes are served in thalis or banana leaf "meals," but Punjabi-style veg dishes are available a la carte at some restaurants--it has become sort of a national cuisine.The buffet at Chennai Garden, for instance, though a South Indian restaurant, has mostly Punjabi dishes. On Southern Spice's menu, only the first two vegetable items seemed to be Southern style, and the others Punjabi.

                                                                              3. were talking about southern spice right? how do you get there from the subway

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: FrankieLymon

                                                                                  The Q65 bus stops right at the door. It might be harder to find the bus stop in downtown Flushing because it's a major bus hub.

                                                                                  1. re: FrankieLymon

                                                                                    The Q65 stops on the southeast corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Ave. There is a bus map in the subway station. Southern Spice is on the corner of Bowne and 45th Avenues, it's the first stop right after the bus turns off Bowne.

                                                                                    1. re: mushimushi427

                                                                                      Is it less than a mile from the Main St. Station?

                                                                                      1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                        Do you mean LIRR? or subway? it's a 15 min walk either way, and quite pleasant one. Walk east on Roosevelt until Bowne St and then take a right heading South. Don't know if there is parking next to the restaurant.

                                                                                        1. re: diprey

                                                                                          In many trips to that general area, either for Bownie's, Dosa Hutt or, now, Southern Spice, I've never had a hard time finding parking nearbly, within a block or two. Bowne Street, on the same stretch as the temple and Dosa Hutt, is the better option, as it is non-meter. I think 45th Avenue is meter.

                                                                                          And, yeah, it's a nice walk from the trains, especially in good weather.

                                                                                  2. Went last night with a group of 9, but I was a guest, not the ringleader, so I pretty much ate what the organizer of the evening ordered, with some suggestions from the table, many from suggestions from this thread. Some in the party seemed sheephish about extreme spice, and I don't know if the kitchen was told this since I didn't hear the order being put in, but except for the rasam and the Chicken 65 nothing was really spicy. Everything was good, but I don't think it lived up to my expectations. I've traveled a bunch in South India, and compared to the best non-veg in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, this is a shadow. I think the food, in general lacked a certain boldness and distinctiveness of flavor, and was a little on the rough side (I can't think of a better word). I certainly don't agree with Bruce3404. I may go back, but I'm not chomping at the bit. I think the original incarnation of the now-defunct Asaivam (I forget the original name, but it was next to Udipi Palace before it moved across the street) did a better rendition of Southern non-veg for a while, before they took a nose-dive in quality then closed.


                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                      Asaivam, in its earlier incarnation, was called Ruchi Chettinadu. It was gem of a place - what a loss to the Indian food scene!

                                                                                      1. re: jeeves

                                                                                        Yes, but I think the English sign just said Ruchi. Also, at the beginning, right after they moved to the west side of the street Asaivam was good, then I took a group based on earlier experiences and had to make one of those "it really was good before" apologies. Then shortly thereafter they closed.

                                                                                      1. re: DaveCook

                                                                                        thanks, dave....been raving to a vegetarian friend, crossing my heart we could eat here and this will serve as proof!

                                                                                        1. re: Joe MacBu

                                                                                          "Nevertheless, varuthameen ($11) features a generous kingfish steak lolling in coconutty gravy. It wore a red-hot chile pepper on its breast, as an invitation and a warning."

                                                                                          I never knew kingfish steaks had breasts.

                                                                                          1. re: Joe MacBu

                                                                                            Although I am not a big fan of Sietsema, he did the right thing and stayed away from the traditionally northern dishes. Perhaps the way to go is with the strictly regional uncommon( in this area) plates. I will give then one more chance and follow Sietsema's lead.

                                                                                          2. Am I on the only person here who was underwhelmed by Southern Spice. After I read the unparalleled rave reviews on Chowhound within the first month or so of it being open I went with a couple friends. While we all thought the food was delicious, none of us felt that it was any better than our favorite places on Lexington. I'm not saying it's like Jackson Diner which has little going for it but the crazy positive reviews are a little over the top for this place, in my opinion. Does anyone else out there feel the same way or did I just get them on an off night?

                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: demigodh

                                                                                              I am on the record as not being a big fan of Southern Spice. Three visits and nothing great. I ordered mostly northern dishes that are better at places such as Spicy Mina and Fiza Diner. I hold out hope for the southern dishes though the eggplant in tamarind and Chettinad Khozi Curry were not very good. The Kodi Rasam had an oil slick on top.

                                                                                                1. re: NYJewboy

                                                                                                  Do you really dig anything else there besides biryani and the one other you mentioned?
                                                                                                  So, to be clear, you believe it superior to Dhaba(have not been)which, hopefully, is superior to Chola?
                                                                                                  My feet are becoming colder and colder regarding this place.
                                                                                                  Quite a trek(that might do it in,alone) and I might bring along others. Errors of mine that I pay for are perfectly fine but I do not care to waste others' time.

                                                                                                  1. re: dietndesire

                                                                                                    I love their chana masala a whole lot, and the breads are awesome. I love the chicken 65. It reminds me of my mother.

                                                                                                    1. re: NYJewboy

                                                                                                      Somehow I neglected to ask this before: how does chicken 65 remind you of your mother?

                                                                                                    2. re: dietndesire

                                                                                                      The biryani was fine, but it didn't blow me away. Everything was good, but nothing blew me away. It's better than Kerala Kitchen (different, but somewhat related cuisine), but I'm not inspired to make the trek again.

                                                                                                      Actually, I think the biryani at Haandi was better, though it was precooked and reheated (though most recent Yelp reviews are really negative, and I haven't been there in over the year). I've had Hyderabadi biryani in Hyderabad, and the version at Southern Spice had none of the vibrancy I was looking for.

                                                                                                      Sietsema's review reads like the ravings of a man on Kool-Aid.

                                                                                                      1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                                        P Cherches, anywhere better?

                                                                                                        Jewboy, repeat, better than Dhaba? Do you copy?

                                                                                                        As can be seen, I am making much ado about eating this cuisine. Reason being that it has all been quite middling at best for quite some time and I am, apparently, itching to give someplace a shot at restoring this to the ranks of a worthwhile meal.

                                                                                                        1. re: dietndesire

                                                                                                          For southie non-veg, there's nothing better I know of since there are no other restaurants I know of currently specializing in Tamil & Hyderabadi non-veg., and Kerala Kitchen isn't very good.

                                                                                                          Dietndesire, what has been quite middling for some time, in your opinion? All Indian food in NY? I don't fully understand yur last couple of posts.

                                                                                                          I haven't been to Dhaba, but certainly Chola & Tadka are both better.

                                                                                                          1. re: dietndesire

                                                                                                            I do like it better than chola and dhaba, by far. The only Indian of any kind that I like as much is Saravana's.

                                                                                                            1. re: NYJewboy

                                                                                                              I find that Saravanaas is much truer to the best of Tamil veg than Southern Spice is to Tamil non-veg.

                                                                                                2. their biryani is both not amazing and not spicy. I guess those go hand in hand but I was hoping for something a lot better when I went. While neither are Indian, I would rather be at Kabab King in Jackson Heights or Tangra Masala in Elmhurst. For Indian, I'd take Saravanas or Dosa Hutt over Southern Spice and my local Indian place in Crown Heights is good enough that it's not worth the hour plus trip to get there. Dosa Hutt, on the other hand, is worth the trip.

                                                                                                  20 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: demigodh

                                                                                                    which place in Crown Hts do you like? Ive noticed a little bengali presence over there recently.

                                                                                                    1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                      It's nothing special but Bombay Masala on Franklin Ave (near St. Marks) is good enough, better than your typical neighborhood Indian.

                                                                                                      1. re: demigodh

                                                                                                        tried the buffet today and have to say that i wasn't really that impressed. it was good, but nothing to swoon over, at least not for us: salad, samosa, soup, two nice veggie dishes, dal, rice, 3 chicken dishes and a desert. the veggie dishes were the best of all the offerings. and we had a ginger lemonade and a strawberry lassi. still, nothing really blew us away. and nothing even came close to prompting encomiums like "the best" of ny's indian food. but maybe the strength lies in the a la carte menu, which we'll surely try next time. and while most things struck me as a lot fresher and more carefully prepared than jackson heights' buffets, that's not really saying much. at this point, i wouldn't even travel out there from jh just for the buffet.

                                                                                                        1. re: yussdov

                                                                                                          My so-so experience was with the a la carte menu. I doubt it's significantly enough different.

                                                                                                          1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                                            OK Peter, I read you. What are your favorite Indian places (and style) in NYC?

                                                                                                            1. re: NYJewboy

                                                                                                              My favorite style is Keralan, so I was really disappointed by Kerala Kitchen. But I'm heading to London soon where there's supposedly great Keralan.

                                                                                                              Current favorites:
                                                                                                              Saravanaas (esp. thalis)
                                                                                                              Tadka (esp. vindaloo & shrimp curry, which is South Indian style); the dinner special is an amazing deal: $15 for main, veg. of day, bean/dal of day, rice & naan.
                                                                                                              Chola (only been to the buffet)
                                                                                                              Minar--among the best, most authentic North Indian I've had at any price point, especially the Punjabi veg. items, esp. palak paneer and aloo gobi--chicken dishes can be too dry, goat & lamb are OK. I usually get a meat combo but with 2 veg & 1 meat instead of 2 meat & 1 veg. Their naans and rotis are very good too. I mostly know the 46th Street branch.

                                                                                                              I haven't tried Tamarind or Tabla. I thought Cafe Spice on University was excellent for several years, but they took a nose dive.

                                                                                                              1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                                                I'm with you on Saravanaas. I get the thali several times a week. I must try Minar. You sound like you know of what you speak.

                                                                                                                1. re: NYJewboy

                                                                                                                  which is the thali you get? or is there only one? line out the door again when we passed by after our meal at chennai garden (gunpowder masala dosa, bhindi masala and salad); the okra was good and the salad alright; the dosa was too salty but really good, served separately from all the fillings and sauces and barely folded/rolled over; perfect way to deliver a dosa! the inside (or top of the dosa) was totally coated in something like what they would coat a dorito or pringle in to make a spicy indian flavor or something like that. not that bad of course, but that's what it reminded me of it was so intensely flavorful. really good, highly recommended. i used to like the rava masala dosa (the chunky one) but, I think i like this better. oh, and next to madras mahal and dhaba and the new place pundeem or something like that, was a "Dosa Hut" in the space occupied previously by tamil nadu bhavan (now closed).

                                                                                                                  1. re: bigjeff

                                                                                                                    There's one thali, called South Indian Thali, where they vary the components daily. There are also several other combination meals & tiffins, but I wouldn't call them technically thalis. The South Indian Thali has the type of items you'd get with a banana leaf "meal" in informal places in South India (SIngapore), or a thali in a fancier restaurant.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                                                      I recommend both the standard thali meal that Peter mentions and the the other offerings on the thali portion of the menu - these differ from the standard thali and offer some very good dishes indeed, giving you more varied tastes of the cuisine, The different rice dishes in particular are wonderful.

                                                                                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                        Yes, bisibelebath is a wonderful rice dish. I'm not thrilled with the rava kichidi, which is similar to oopma, but amber in color instead of white (the menu says it's made with roasted sooji, so maybe the roasting is the difference). The defunct Dosa Hut on the corner of 27th made the best oopma I've had in the U.S., probably as good as any I had in India.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                                                          I havent had the dish but I think that the difference is that the sooji is fried before the water is added. See sample recipe attached. (of course this may not be the same way saravanaas makes it. that and the turmeric added would account for the amber color.

                                                                                                                          We use roasted sooji to make upma and the result is creamy in color.

                                                                                                                          1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                            yes, my family (and I) always dry roast the sooji before making upma. but my family is maharashtrian, so perhaps the white kind is from another region.

                                                                                                                            1. re: missmasala

                                                                                                                              'but my family is maharashtrian ..'

                                                                                                                              but not you?! (grin)

                                                                                                                              arre kai re .. and think of me next time you have shira.

                                                                                                                              1. re: howler

                                                                                                                                I'm heading to mumbai soon for the first time in 12 years (!!!??) and i'm planning to eat plenty of shira, both the sweet and savory kind!

                                                                                                                                and i'm only half maharashtrian (dad)--my mom's from budapest.

                                                                                                                    2. re: bigjeff

                                                                                                                      I just get the regular rotating thali special, which is spectacular most every time. It is also a bargain at about $10 at lunch.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                                                    tamarind you can skip, I think there's better fancy indian and even the food there, while relatively authentic to . . I dunno, something, it's still not that good. i did have the lamb korma at that midtown minar for a couple weeks and it was really good; the minar in the east 30s is bad. and, I gotta big up Famous Curry Kebab (now Sonali; they just put in a fancy awning) because it is damn good, but haven't been for a few weeks; hopefully it's just a chance in name but not owners or chefs. hennybee is with me on this, and maybe some others. but you know, I definitely don't go as much as I used to; maybe got tired of it and also, of their slowly rising prices (still a great deal at $7 for 3-veg combo or $8 for meat + 2 veg, and they load it up).

                                                                                                                    1. re: bigjeff

                                                                                                                      The 31st Street Minar was the original (actually, at first they were even further south, on 27th down from the Gershwin Hotel, in the '80s), but when they opened 46th most of the people from 31st moved there.

                                                                                                                      1. re: bigjeff

                                                                                                                        Ugh, I hate to say it, but Sonali -- AWFUL. (Maybe they changed hands?) Lousy, murky tastes. Truly terrible, esp. the chicken. I would never get any meat dish there again. Actually I'd never get *any* food there ever again, but especially not meat.

                                                                                                          2. re: demigodh

                                                                                                            Wow - these reports on Southern Spice are genuinely surprising. They depart markedly from our experiences on several previous visits, which were notably consistent (and very favorable). As an example, the biryani was bursting with flavor in a way I had never before encountered and was unequivocally, indisputably spicy. Truly memorable. Also loved the fish curry, the okra, the spinach/lentil dish, the breads...Based on these experiences I would never think to equate SS with a place like Minar (which is merely quite good in my view). Something is going on it seems. Could the sudden uptick in attention from a very different demographic be taking a toll on what can only be described as a small, fragile operation? A loss of innocence perhaps? If so I surely hope the phenomenon is temporary.

                                                                                                          3. Some of the criticism on this thread, I sense, is in direct corrolation with previous raves, some of which state that Southern Spice's food is the best of its' kind in the USA, one post even claiming that the food is better here than in India itself. Such hyperbole on this site is like waving a red flag in front of a bull, and is bound to invite opposing viewpoints. Fair enough.

                                                                                                            That said, after my second visit, I still stand firmly behind this place. Others can debate authenticity and relative merit, and whether it's worth it to travel from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Kalamazoo - that's fine. But the Chapa Pulusu I had today was a wonderful, pungent combination of tangy and hot. The bone-in, meaty kingfish was smothered in a potent curry which, in addition to having a deep, strong flavor, had my tongue and upper pallette tingling with heat for an hour afterwards. I was also glad to have tried the garlic naan, which is a big improvement over the straight up version.

                                                                                                            As much as I respect Peter Cherche's opinion, and his obvious knowledge of and devotion to South Indian cuisine, I can't agree with the assertion that the food here lacks "boldness." Based on my experience here, this is hardly the case.

                                                                                                            I'll add, to Burton's above comment, that it was hard to avoid, during today's visit, that the lunch buffet rules the day here. I was the only diner - and there were about 10 others, not bad for a Friday at 1pm - ordering off the menu. The waiter was kind of surprised, to be honest. I can't speak to the quality of the buffet, haven't tried it. But, again, based on a second visit, I don't think these guys are holding back on the menu items. This is still good food.


                                                                                                            15 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Polecat

                                                                                                              Hey other P.C.--maybe the silver lining is that I caught them on a bad night. Two others who were there for the same dinner (making 3 out of 9) expressed general agreement with my assessment.

                                                                                                              1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                                                I was also there in the group with Peter and I also generally agree with his assessment, so maybe it was an off-night. I still liked it, but it did not blow me away, except for the biryani. Unlike Peter, I thought the biryani was amazing. But then, maybe I've just never had a really brilliant biryani. That was the best one that I can remember eating. I also loved a couple of desserts, the gulab jamun (that's the best and freshest gulab jamun I've had in many years) and the ras malai, and the mango lassi was great too. But other than that, I didn't try anything that blew me away. For instance, the kodi rasam was intensely, powerfully spicy (much more so than most of the entrees) without being particularly flavorful. It was all fine, but I'm not sure I'd travel all the way out there again, although maybe the promise of really great payasam (another dessert, as mentioned by Sietsema) might lure me. His review doesn't match up with my experience there, but I *did* love the desserts.

                                                                                                                That said, to me, S. Spice was a hell of a lot better than Saravanaas. I was very disappointed in the thali I tried at Saravanaas several months ago; most of it tasted like it was out of a can. Another off-night maybe? I also had some mediocre food at Madras Cafe a while back in a very large group. Maybe the people running Southern Spice and Madras Cafe can't handle large groups very well. How many off-nights do I have to withstand at Indian restaurants in NYC? Sigh. My Keralan co-worker sometimes brings in some samples of his mother's cooking which often completely puts all of this restaurant food to shame.

                                                                                                                In terms of restaurants, maybe whenever I get a craving for Indian then I'll just go to Indian Chef in Lodi, NJ, from now on instead.

                                                                                                                That said, to Dietndesire: Flushing is a fascinating neighborhood and worth a visit (or several) even if you're coming from a really long way away, but if you like authentic Chinese food then you might be better off at one of the many great examples of that in downtown Flushing near the #7. Southern Spice is probably the best Indian restaurant food I've eaten in NYC in several years but sadly that's not really saying much.

                                                                                                              2. re: Polecat

                                                                                                                I still think its awesome, and worth the trip from Manhattan for sure.

                                                                                                                1. re: Polecat

                                                                                                                  The intense enthusiasm of early posters naturally sends expectations soaring. The resulting let-down - 'Fine but not worth the trip in from Natchitoches' or 'Good but no better than the splendid meal I had late one moonlit night many years ago on a back street behind the palace in Chettinad' - is more or less inevitable. It's the familiar paradox: You want others to share in the pleasure and for the place to survive (even thrive). Yet the impact of discovery by a wider public can be profound. Often the natural rhythm is upset with unpredictable consequences. Let's hope for the best and in the meantime continue to give them our business.

                                                                                                                  1. re: burton

                                                                                                                    Some of us just call it like we see it. They get the business they deserve, for better or worse.

                                                                                                                    1. re: stuartlafonda

                                                                                                                      'Some of us call it like we see it. They get the business they deserve...' Tough love.
                                                                                                                      Result: Olive Garden.

                                                                                                                      1. re: burton

                                                                                                                        How does supporting an undeserving restaurant avoid an Olive Garden world? That is exactly how we end up with the abundance of chain crap, people spending good money on bad food. If SS has good food served for the right price they will do fine as there is no shortage of people who love this cuisine, myself included. If the food stinks they may still flourish, but not with my help. I come here to share honest opinions, that is what I offer and what I think most other 'hounds supply. I liked the Chicken 65 and the tandoori shrimp although they were anything but jumbo. They were not done in the oven but appeared to have been dredged in a spice mixture and then cooked on the stove top. They were quite delicious and together would make an excellent start to a meal with a cold beer from the nearby deli. I still hope to find some other good mains from the regional portion of the menu.

                                                                                                                    2. re: burton

                                                                                                                      Burton, I dig your rhetorical style!

                                                                                                                      1. re: burton

                                                                                                                        Southern Spice blows away the place behind the palace in Chettinad.

                                                                                                                          1. re: NYJewboy

                                                                                                                            LOL good luck getting excellent indian food in India, ! but thats a discussion for another plance and day.

                                                                                                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                              Reminds me of a must avoid: 'Your Down-homeTexas BBQ' stand in downtown Chettinad. Seriously lacking in authenticity. They even offered sauce for the BBQ. The horror! Cheap though.
                                                                                                                              PS Please don't say this post should be moved to the Chettinad Board. Thx.

                                                                                                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                                Well, I can't let Jen's comment go unchallenged, having had some of the best meals of my life in India, especially the south, but also Delhi, Jaipur, and Mumbai.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                                                                  LOL burton!
                                                                                                                                  Peter, lets just say I wasnt as lucky, with a few shining exceptions.
                                                                                                                                  Not to say I dont intend to give it another try one of these years.
                                                                                                                                  I hope sometime you will post or blog on your indian experiences.

                                                                                                                                  But my first priority is to get out to Southern Spice and see whether it floats my boat .

                                                                                                                        1. I ate there last night for the first time and loved it. We had vegetable biriyami, chicken 65 and the mixed tandoori grill and tandoori roti. And I took a lamb vindaloo to go. Everything was so well cooked, lots of great spices and I loved the heat levels; there was a lot of heat, but it didn't overshadow the other flavors. I found everything delicious and am already looking forward to those leftovers.

                                                                                                                          1. PEOPLE, PEOPLE, subdue your excitement. YES, I went to S Spice. I know, now the truth will be revealed. Since I had not completely committed to it until right beforehand, the people I was going to drag out there had made alternative plans. Went solo, arrived about 12:30pm Saturday.Sidebar, is there one bloody subway line that operates without construction delays, etc. in this town?Tax dollars at work, oh wait, no, you pay to ride it.
                                                                                                                            Nobody there when I walked in.
                                                                                                                            Had the fried okra, mutton biryani, couple chicken dishes,bit of potatoes,rice and a naan.
                                                                                                                            Will try to keep this short.Overall,I say this is the best Indian in the city not that I have been to every single one but I do not see anywhere that has such pure raves that there is any reason to believe it would be superior.
                                                                                                                            On the other hand, the bar is low to be the "best" in this class.It is def good food.Trek worthy? Not sure, for me, I would rather skip eating than eat somewhere I do not care for which is basically everywhere. If i made a list of places I would eat or consider trying if I have not been in NYC, it would be so very short. Probably could fit it all on a Post It.
                                                                                                                            Biryani was good but I thought the rice looked a bit ragged.Perhaps it is supposed to end up like this so not a negative but for me, it was a small one.
                                                                                                                            Forget the types of chicken dishes, one was very good, one was very pointless.
                                                                                                                            Naan good, thinner than most but taste was up there.I prefer a bit thicker but this is not a significant strike at all. Okra dish,really good.I am anti vegetarian, as sides, fine and all but without getting into it, I do not consider this a strong foundation for empire building.
                                                                                                                            This okra bit was, again, worth eating on its own.Their plain basmati was a bit bland I thought.Wasn't really necessary at a buffett though.
                                                                                                                            Meat was not overcooked or undercooked and was moist and quite good considering the potential problems from being at a steam table. My original plan was to order a couple a la carte dishes to go for later on but I was going to be out far too long for them to keep. I cannot say for sure that a la carte would be even better, perhaps not at all or even worse but a few very slight deteriorations seemed to be steam table effects. My gut says, a la carte execution would be a hair better. Obviously, I cannot evaluate the flavors of them.
                                                                                                                            I have not eaten my way through India but even some of the natives I know do not rave about the food there overall so I can understand some who say it is better than the motherland.
                                                                                                                            Best in NYC, probably, mind blowing, no. Good spice, nothing crazy, actually has some flavor above the tasteless trash one gets everywhere else.
                                                                                                                            I doubt I would bother eating this cuisine anywhere else in town though that does not mean I will rush there with baited breath as often as possible.
                                                                                                                            More people showed up to eat there around 1-130pm which made me feel a bit better.They certainly deserve to be in business if all the thousands of other crapholes are.
                                                                                                                            It is not Nirvana, it is good, maybe very good, possibly excellent(a la carte?) though they would probably need better ingredients to go to the highest highs.
                                                                                                                            At least the Mets weren't in town because the 7 train was packed for half the way back.
                                                                                                                            I am leaning toward the positive reviews in this thread, though tempered.
                                                                                                                            Those saying it is overrated, well, compared to some independent standard, I can see your point, compared to the rest, I do not see it. The quality of food is quite poor, when something is good, perhaps too much elation. Of course, if people stopped eating every meal out, maybe it could all be improved.

                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: dietndesire

                                                                                                                              are there even three restaurants in new york city worth going to?

                                                                                                                              if so, could you list them?

                                                                                                                              1. re: david sprague

                                                                                                                                Indian? Not as far as I am concerned. And the only one I might be intrigued by that I have not been to is Devi though I am not chomping at the bit to test it. Just a maybe, possibly, if the stars align, etc. Not a good wager for even money.

                                                                                                                              2. re: dietndesire

                                                                                                                                Mind blowing--that depends on the mind. If you have speciic suggestions, why won't you share on this forum? Nobody was claiming S Spice was the best restaurant under the sun, but I usually see thumbs up from people who come here from all parts of India and are into Indian cooking. (Frankly, I am, too, so happy to see how their--Indian, mind you--staff are proud of the food they serve; that's a telling good sign to me.) And, did I mention it tastes great? What was your point, anyway?

                                                                                                                              3. 162nd endorsement. Really excellent food. I was surprised at the intensity and complexity of flavor in each dish. We enjoyed the Chala Masala and Chicken 65 the most - the Chicken 65 rivals some of the best dishes I've had in NY. The goat curry was also very good.

                                                                                                                                The commute was not bad. The express 7 only took about 30 minutes. Definitely destination food.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: Erikaleelee

                                                                                                                                  164th endorsement. I really liked most of the mixed Tandor plate and the Chicken Korma we had was great. I prefer the food here to what I've had at Devi.

                                                                                                                                  1. For those who have ordered "butter chicken" at Southern Spice: What was it like? I was there last weekend (my second visit) and, having seen raves about the butter chicken here, we ordered it. What we got was chicken tikka masala (the kind you get in any run of the mill Indian restaurant). It was OK, but nothing the least bit out of the ordinary. Have others had a different experience? The veg. biryani was extremely good, as it had been on our last visit.

                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: gnosh

                                                                                                                                      Butter chicken and chicken tikka masala are two names for the same dish.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Peter Cherches

                                                                                                                                        Ah. Well, I would say that there is no reason to go to that restaurant to order that dish. Why would you?

                                                                                                                                    2. Southern Spice is now open on Tuesdays! We went to the lunch buffet today. Chef Manny always has a little surprise dish not on the menu. Today a new dessert, milky sweet with tapioca, spiced with cardamom. Yum.

                                                                                                                                      18 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: mushimushi427

                                                                                                                                        I've been eating at Southern Spice since March and it is still amazing. I go whenever we have the car. I get all the regular items on the "chowhound crowds" list. I haven't had better since Southhall, London, years ago... different style but the same spicy depth of flavors. I Love New York.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: honeybea

                                                                                                                                          I've got to check Southern Spice out - is there an actual "chowhounds crowds" list for the place?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: round2

                                                                                                                                            If you look at some of the earlier posts you will see recommendations for the goat with mint curry, the chicken soup (Kodi Rasam), Biryani, Chicken 65 and the Butter Chicken. If you go for the buffet you will have an opportunity to sample several dishes. Enjoy the food!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: mushimushi427

                                                                                                                                              I would not bother w/the butter chicken (aka chicken tikka masala). It is nothing special and no better than the versions at most neighborhood Indian restaurants. I second the chicken 65 and especially the vegetable biryani.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: gnosh

                                                                                                                                                Love the dum biryani, the curry fish and the spinach/lentil combination. I find the chicken 65 one dimensional - just ok.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: burton

                                                                                                                                                  Actually, I agree w/you about the Ch. 65. It is fun, but not deep. Really good super-spicy fried matter.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: gnosh

                                                                                                                                                  I thought Round2 was asking for the "chowhounds crowds list," no? My current favorites are the eggplant in tamarind sauce, the lamb vindaloo, dry sauteeed lamb and the mint goat curry.

                                                                                                                                                3. re: mushimushi427

                                                                                                                                                  Have they changed or increased the variety at lunch yet? The last time I was there it was just chicken and a couple of vegetarian dishes and nothing really southern. Several others made similar comments above.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: el jefe

                                                                                                                                                    There are 6-8 dishes plus dessert, soup, salad and one or two appetizers. Generally there are at least 2 meat dishes in the buffet lunch. Usually there is one dish not featured in the menu.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: mushimushi427

                                                                                                                                                    Thanks all - planning to go this week.

                                                                                                                                                  3. re: round2

                                                                                                                                                    "is there an actual 'chowhounds crowds' list for the place?"

                                                                                                                                                    No need to have it with you. The waiter already knows it.

                                                                                                                                                    That said, my feeling with any restaurant is that you should just order what appeals to you as long as it's part of their core cuisine. (i.e. ordering a Cantonese dish in a Szechuan restaurant is at best a lost opportunity.)

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                      And this miraculous place that has no equals in Mother India, in the considered opinion of Chowhound experts, has upped and died? A bit like Angon's fate??? What a shame!!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: GTM

                                                                                                                                                        They haven't responded to any of my messages or emails. I'm sad. We loved it there.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ZenFoodist

                                                                                                                                                          The owner is hopefully opening in New Hyde Park. We were regulars too. I look forward to the reopening.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: mushimushi427

                                                                                                                                                            I'm bummed about the new location. Practically inacessable, except by car. I'm 5 miles away in Brooklyn and MTA tells me it would take over an hour to get there via public transport.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: bruce3404

                                                                                                                                                              Hi bruce3404,

                                                                                                                                                              Come on over and move to Queens! It's the new Brooklyn! It's got the best ethnic food and it's a lot easier to own a car yet still use public transit for most things.

                                                                                                                                                              We drove to the new location a few weeks back and kapow! Yeah, that's some serious mouth lava!

                                                                                                                                                              Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a satisfying answer about why it's called Chicken 65 either. Maybe it stands for 65 °C? (149 °F) Hmm... not hot enough. Oh well...

                                                                                                                                                              One of the brothers said they were planning to unveil some new menu items shortly but the items were shrouded in secrecy. At the time, they were also still waiting for the "i" in "Spice" to arrive for the sign on the front (it's going to be a red chili pepper).

                                                                                                                                                              Had the samosa chaat, the biriyani, the minty nilgiri curry and the above-mentioned chicken 65. All great. Samosa chaat was as good as that one amazing time I had it at Spicy Mina's back in the day when it first opened in Sunnyside.

                                                                                                                                                              Looking forward to going back and trying some of their other items.

                                                                                                                                                              Still not moving to Queens and gettin' some wheels? Well, there's always Zip Car!

                                                                                                                                                              Ciao, Glendale is hungry...

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Glendale is hungry


                                                                                                                                                                Please tell us what else is noteworthy in Queens: new, or old favorites you have recently revisited? Surely, Southern Spice cannot be the ONLY good So. Asian left standing? Seems a bit like "The boy stood on the burning deck...."!!!!

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Glendale is hungry

                                                                                                                                                                  Just to be accurate, Southern Spice is now in Nassau County. Don't get me wrong, I'm Queens born and raised, and justly proud of my boro, just pointing this out and thereby hoping someone will start a S.S. thread on the correct board. I have been there about a half dozen times and find them wildly inconsistent.

                                                                                                                                                4. My Google search provided this information.

                                                                                                                                                  Southern Spice Restaurant
                                                                                                                                                  (516) 216-5449
                                                                                                                                                  1635 Hillside Ave
                                                                                                                                                  New Hyde Park, NY 11040

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: d18black

                                                                                                                                                    Three bus rides from Ridgewood, Brooklyn. 1 hour 51 minutes. Used to get there a lot faster when I lived on Staten Island! Wonder why they isolated themselves so much from subway or rail lines? The old place wasn't easy, but at least you could ride the 7, then transfer to a bus and get dropped off at their doorstep. Far as I'm concerned, they might as well have relocated to Montana since I don't have a car and am unwilling to travel a 4 hour RT, even if the food was free. Too bad, I loved that place.