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cheap indian food in manhattan

madkittybadkitty Sep 13, 2009 03:12 PM

where do i find authentic, hole-in-the-wall, no-decor, cheap GOOD indian food in manhattan? no waiters, just somewhere to sit (maybe), and made by real indian people from india?
curry and basmati rice and things like that i can make at home with no problem.
but is there somewhere i can get indian vegetarian - uttapams, masala dosais, idlys, bhatturas, etc? and good cheap indian sweets - rasmalai, gulab jamun, burfi, laddus?

far from home (singapore, where i can get all this stuff easy)


serious cravings



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  1. goodhealthgourmet RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 13, 2009 03:32 PM

    the $6 lunch buffet at Tiffin Wallah is a long-standing CH favorite. Chennai Garden and Saravanaas also get a lot of love. all three are located in the general vicinity of "Curry Hill" adjacent to Murray Hill in East Lower Midtown.

    81 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

    Tiffin Wallah
    127 E 28th St, New York, NY 10016

    Chennai Garden
    129 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016

    1. goodhealthgourmet RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 13, 2009 03:34 PM

      one more option i forgot to add to my other reply - upstairs at Kalustyan's market there's a little cafe/counter with various prepared items.it also happens to be one of the best shops in the city for ethnic ingredients and spices.

      123 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

      2 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
        Pan RE: goodhealthgourmet Nov 7, 2009 06:39 PM

        Doesn't sound like what she's look for, though. The really great thing there is the Mujadara, which comes from the Levant - a far cry from South India. Saravanaas - which has a branch in Singapore - seems to be her best bet, though I agree that Chennai Garden is also very good, and I'd add Madras Mahal to the mix.

        81 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

        Chennai Garden
        129 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016

        Madras Mahal
        104 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016

        1. re: Pan
          Piso RE: Pan Jan 27, 2012 11:45 AM

          Mujadara rules. i second that !

      2. ow77 RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 13, 2009 03:41 PM

        Saravanaas is indeed great. For a more hole in the wall feeling go to Punjabi where Houston becomes 1st st.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ow77
          Blues0010 RE: ow77 Feb 27, 2011 03:33 PM

          Just ate here tonight. This place is good! And super cheap. I had a good spinach dish.

        2. thew RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 13, 2009 03:49 PM

          brick lane

          and though it is sri lankan, not indian it will hit the spot - sigiri

          further up town and a bit more upscale and pricey is dhaba

          1. JungMann RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 14, 2009 08:44 AM

            I haven't had the best luck with mithai in Manhattan. There is a halal store on 28th (?) and Lexington that claims to make their own barfi and ladoo -- I don't remember if I have verified that, though their papri are good. More recently I have been going to Sukhadia's, which can sometimes taste a bit stale. You would have better luck by checking out the Outer Boroughs.

            Goodhealthgourmet covered the Indian veg places I'd recommend, though I'd also add the Dosa Cart in Washington Square Park for a decent masala dosa.

            9 Replies
            1. re: JungMann
              bigjeff RE: JungMann Sep 14, 2009 08:34 PM

              ya there's no good sweets place in manhattan is there? nothing of JH's luminaries (rajhbog, al naimat, maharaja) in a pinch I've hit that grocery store on the corner of lex and 29th but I'm sure they don't make their own sweets; it's unfortunate. if anyone has a good place in manhattan, speak up! but . . . dare I mention Charlie paan? It's the best.

              are you looking for takeout? eat-in? seems like all the good south asian stuff wouldn't fare well as takeout but I'd stick with goodhealthgourmet's 3 go-tos for that. and for a change of pace from the other curry hill typicalities, try Sonali which is still one of my fave's although they have a pretty even distribution of meat, seafood and vegetable so you won't really find the veg stuff although they do have nice vegetables there, maybe 3-4 daily.

              15 E 31st St, New York, NY 10016

              1. re: bigjeff
                bigjeff RE: bigjeff Sep 22, 2009 08:18 AM

                FYI, ate there again after another hiatus . . . the place is not so much my go-to anymore; they just installed a halal deli counter which looks like it makes reg. sandwiches (grilled chicken, turkey) but halal, and my meal last night at $8 was aight (rice, beef curry, a lentil and loofah dish plus mixed veg; they were cheap on the rice (white only) and the beef curry was aight. what happened??

                1. re: bigjeff
                  bigjeff RE: bigjeff Mar 16, 2010 08:51 PM

                  update on Sonali: the name is now A Desi Diner; looks like different guys behind the counter; the joint was already remodeled when it was still Sonali. The food did get tastier at some point, about two months ago.

              2. re: JungMann
                bigjeff RE: JungMann Mar 16, 2010 08:50 PM

                update on fresh mithai: they are making it at Bhojan and it is really really good!

                The other place I had found is Curry Express (on 28th, just east of lex on the south side) but their mithai are actually from Al Naimat, although not fresh made. in fact I went there 3-4 days apart and I could tell it was the same sweets sitting there.

                1. re: bigjeff
                  Pan RE: bigjeff Jun 22, 2010 12:04 AM

                  Where's Bhojan, and which mithai have you tried there? [Edit: My first question was automatically answered by the site inserting the link below.]

                  102 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                  1. re: Pan
                    bigjeff RE: Pan Jun 22, 2010 10:08 AM

                    they had a pretty good ladoo when I was there, a nice pistachio burfi that was crispy/crunchy yet still pliant and moist; the carrot halva was good and they had a very wet ("juicy", the lady behind the counter said) one, the name escapes me but it is quite spongy and juicy, maybe cham-cham? it is oblong and split, and then filled with a cream (more sour than sweet, which was nice) in the middle and was indeed exceptionally juicy. their selection changes each time I've been there, and they only have about a dozen at a time.

                    1. re: bigjeff
                      Pan RE: bigjeff Jun 22, 2010 11:31 PM

                      Sounds great! I'll definitely keep the place in mind, but I'm glad it's far enough that I can't go there every day. :-)

                      1. re: bigjeff
                        FoodDabbler RE: bigjeff Feb 27, 2011 03:47 PM

                        As I've said elsewhere, I liked the sweets at Bhojan, too (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7038... ). Sadly they seem to have cut back a lot, both on variety and quality. I was there Thursday night, and all they had was a large tray of jilebis (the crisp, sprightly, translucent chickpea batter spirals soaked in syrup). On asking if they had anything else they produced some gulab jamuns from downstairs. Sadly, they were of the spongy, bready variety found all over New York, not the dense, solid-milk confections they need to be. I went back today to find the same tray of jilebis (now about a quarter full, and looking more sad than sprightly) and a rather depleted tray of disintegrating ras malai. Nothing else. This is a great loss.

                        102 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                    2. re: bigjeff
                      JungMann RE: bigjeff Aug 12, 2010 11:51 AM

                      I would never have happened upon either of these finds without your recommendation. I was most excited to try Curry Express since I love Al Naimat's motichoor ladoo, but it didn't taste the same. And as you've noted, the mithai are sometimes stale, which is a disappointment. But Bhojan has been great! They don't have the mithai I like the most, but what they do have is of a much higher quality than anything else I've found on Lexington.

                      Curry Express
                      130 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

                      102 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                  2. o
                    Orly RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 14, 2009 10:29 AM

                    I can recommend Desi Deli - Punjabi dhaba.
                    724 10th ave, btw 49 and 50th str.
                    Ate there a lot when was dating an indian guy who said that food there is the closest to the food he was used to have at home

                    1. s
                      sholli RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 14, 2009 11:13 AM

                      Another option is to hit Newark Ave. (btw JFK and Tonnele) in Jersey City, just 3 blocks from the Journal Square PATH station (less than 30 minutes from Herald Sq). It's a two block strip that is packed with really good, non-americanized and generally not at all fancy restaurants, many south indian, vegitarian, w/ lots of chaat. There are also many markets and bakeries. It's the best I've had near NYC except when we schlep out to Queens.

                      1. f
                        fm1963 RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 14, 2009 02:33 PM

                        I recently had a tasty mushroom/spinach dosa a Salaam Bombay, 319 Greenwich Ave.

                        I also like Indian Tanpura on Amsterdam bet. 87th and 88th for vegetarian dishes like Tarka Dal and Dal Saag.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: fm1963
                          Pan RE: fm1963 Nov 7, 2009 06:41 PM

                          I went to Salaam Bombay a year or two ago (I think it was two years) and was surprised by how good it was, but I think our original poster is more looking for a dosa house.

                          Salaam Bombay
                          319 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                        2. c
                          cimui RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 14, 2009 07:03 PM

                          Reiterating a lot of places, here, with specific recs for different places:

                          Sukhadia's for sweets only.
                          Indus Express for chaat only.
                          Chennai Garden for all dosas and sambar.
                          Saravanaas for vada (all preps, including plain fried).

                          I don't know who does the best uttapam, since I don't order that out as much, but Chennai Garden does have a good version.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: cimui
                            Miss Needle RE: cimui Sep 22, 2009 08:34 AM

                            I had an awesome uttapam at Tiffin Wallah. They got the crust a really nice crispy golden brown. Very different than the mini ones they feature during their lunch buffet.

                            1. re: Miss Needle
                              cimui RE: Miss Needle Sep 23, 2009 07:37 AM

                              That sounds good. I like 'em crusty, too. And you just gave me a (completely off topic) idea: Uttapam might make a decent wheat free pizza crust, especially given that some places already serve them with tomato slices cooked on top. :)

                              1. re: cimui
                                Miss Needle RE: cimui Sep 23, 2009 03:35 PM

                                Oh, what a great idea! I can totally see that working. I've also thought about making some gluten-free takoyaki using the dosa/uttapam batter as well.

                                1. re: cimui
                                  goodhealthgourmet RE: cimui Dec 29, 2009 08:38 PM

                                  cimui, i *just* saw this so i have no idea if you'll ever read my reply, but i had to tell you this is a genius idea!

                            2. s
                              shanshan RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 14, 2009 08:02 PM

                              My recommendations:

                              Curry Hill:
                              Saravanas/Chennai Garden for South Indian (I lean to Saravanas as slightly better sambar). Uttapan there fine, I don't eat it, but my friend has ordered it on back-to-back occassions.
                              Haand: "taxi food" i (cheap $8 meat combination.. this much better than anything Curry in Hurry Offers)
                              Tiffan Wallah: non-greasy vegetarian
                              Dhaba: good mid-tier option in area. great buffet value. last time I was there quality sucked but maybe they will improve. I fear all indian restaurants great in first 6 months and then downhill..
                              Copper Chimney: slightly pricer than Dhaba, my old go-to, but chefs were always changing. prob still good.
                              Chinese Mirch: Indo-chinese.. guessing you have something similar in Singapore...
                              Bhattarus made on weekends at Chennai Garden and I think every day at Saravanas. I've had the one at Saravanas which is fine offering, haven't had at Chennai garden to compare.
                              Roomali in area for kati rolls (I've only had the meat ones..)
                              Other lunch buffets are out there as well, Utsav has a good one for $20 in midtown west.
                              Not all restaurants have thalis, so would check menupages.com in advance if that's a goal..

                              1. m
                                MahatmaKanejeeves RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 24, 2009 03:44 PM

                                I like Tiffin Wallah and the Dosa places on Newark Ave. in Jersey City. Also Punjabi Deli at 114 E. Houston St (b/w 1 ave and Ave A) is worth a visit. Veggie menu. Popular with cab drivers. They have places to eat while standing, but no seats. No decor and hole in the wall. Spice Corner on Lex and 29 St has selection of Indian Sweets.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MahatmaKanejeeves
                                  bigjeff RE: MahatmaKanejeeves Oct 18, 2009 02:46 AM

                                  spice corner has sweets but i don't know who makes them; the case doesn't look like it turns over very much. but, right behind spice corner, on east 29th, is curry express, and they get their sweets from al naimat, one of my favorite places in jackson heights. they have maybe 12 of their selections so this is prob one of the best places to get sweets in the hood.

                                  Curry Express
                                  130 E 29th St, New York, NY 10016

                                2. courtney.hami RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 26, 2009 09:25 PM

                                  My new go-to is Touch of India on 37th st btwn 7th and 8th aves, south side of the street.

                                  They have an extensive veggie entree menu as well as a column and a half of dosas and other tastiness. Often, the restaurant is completely empty and the service is awful, but the servings are big and for the right price (less than $10 each/ veggie entree). I hear the chef used to be the chef at Dimple if curry hill (if you've lived here a while you'd know what I was talking about). To boot- it's only a quick skip and a jump to korea town where you can pick up some take out pre-prepared food at wooru jip.

                                  Bonus for pregnant ladies? there's a yoga place with ma yoga classes across the street.

                                  The food tastes great after a vinyasa, I can't even imagine how good it would taste after exercise when preggers...

                                  1. d
                                    DistrictSelectman RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 29, 2009 09:56 AM

                                    Sounds like you're more interested in south Indian cuisine, but for "authentic, hole-in-the-wall, no-decor, cheap GOOD" Punjabi food, the unqualified answer is Sirtaj.

                                    36 W 26th St, New York, NY 10010

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: DistrictSelectman
                                      bigjeff RE: DistrictSelectman Sep 29, 2009 10:35 AM

                                      thanks for the reminder, yes! been meaning to hit that place. what's good there? I heard they had one or two standouts/specialties.

                                      1. re: bigjeff
                                        DistrictSelectman RE: bigjeff Oct 2, 2009 10:12 AM

                                        I usually go there for chana bhatura and rajma (which is one of their daily specials). You probably know, but I wouldn't get bhatura for takeout.

                                      2. re: DistrictSelectman
                                        cimui RE: DistrictSelectman Nov 2, 2009 03:38 PM

                                        Just tried Sirtaj for the first time. Food is competently made, homestyle north Indian and dirt cheap, just as you described it. We had:

                                        -- alu tikki (well fried and simply, possibly under-, seasoned)
                                        -- dahi bhalla (undersalted and very plain, generally... I missed the green chilis, ginger and coriander leaves I use in my version)
                                        -- lamb biryani (excellent!)
                                        -- chicken makhni and lamb korma (both competent)
                                        -- dry curried cauliflower with potato (very good)
                                        -- an eggplant / dal dish (meh)
                                        -- roti and paratha (very good)

                                        Nice option to have nearby.

                                        36 W 26th St, New York, NY 10010

                                        1. re: cimui
                                          cimui RE: cimui Dec 29, 2009 08:23 PM

                                          Alright, quick update: I've now been to Sirtaj (or ordered from there) quite a number of times. I think I don't really love most of the menu (esp. yogurt-based dishes and drinks and meat curries, which tend to be runny and lack nuance in the spicing), but there are a few dishes that I think are quite well made: the cauliflower/potato dry curry, which is an option with the vegetarian special plate, and the alu tikki. The breads seem to be consistently well made (according to the SO), but I haven't had them since the first time. They certainly look and smell delicious.

                                          I think for the price range, Sirtaj does well. (i.e. It was a good suggestion for the OP.) If you don't consider price very heavily, though, I wouldn't go out of my way.

                                        2. re: DistrictSelectman
                                          Pan RE: DistrictSelectman Nov 7, 2009 06:44 PM

                                          Thanks for the rec. Never been; I'll try to keep it in mind. Any dishes you particularly love there?

                                        3. s
                                          snacks_in_the_city RE: madkittybadkitty Sep 29, 2009 10:11 AM

                                          you might also want to look at this new tiffin delivery service:

                                          (disclosure: i have not tried this yet, but heard about it from a friend who is involved in some way. if you do try it, please provide some feedback!)

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: snacks_in_the_city
                                            shanshan RE: snacks_in_the_city Sep 29, 2009 11:23 AM

                                            This is great. When Tiffin Wallah first opened they were talking about doing something like this. I am totally going to sign up and try it out. Will post feedback when I do.. probably in a new thread.

                                            1. re: snacks_in_the_city
                                              shanshan RE: snacks_in_the_city Sep 29, 2009 11:28 AM

                                              not sure if up an running yet... it must be as they have a daily menu... but the sign-up form doesn't work, and you need to sign-up to do anything... I keep getting "choose city' error.. but drop down box for city has no options to select.. (and being a drop down box, I can't type my own in). So one can't sign up (you may want to tell your friend).

                                              looking at prices ($10).. seem reasonable. Would hope if there volume came up, price would decrease or quality would increase. Haandi for $8 does a great great job for me and there other some other thalis in the area that reasonable.. but its tough to get a thali for delivery.. so if this tiffin service was real high quality.. I could see myself using it for lunch and dinner occassionally. I would use this service over lunch from the indian carts as I think this would taste better/healthier (less greasy) for extra $2.

                                              1. re: shanshan
                                                bigjeff RE: shanshan Sep 29, 2009 12:09 PM

                                                sorry, i may have missed this in the thread: indian carts? where? (aside from dosa man)

                                                1. re: shanshan
                                                  indianfoodfreek2001 RE: shanshan Sep 30, 2009 06:13 PM

                                                  I order from tiffinnewyork.com and they really have a variety of indian food. I order to my office in the financial district & the service is good. Food is less oily than other options I have in the city & the taste is great. Will definately recomment. To answer your question I think you first have to select STATE & than the cities show up....they also have customer service number on their website...i do not remember.

                                              2. b
                                                braisen RE: madkittybadkitty Dec 29, 2009 01:42 PM

                                                It's not Manhattan, but if you go to the Canteen in the basement of the Ganapathi Temple in Flushing, Queens you will not be disappointed. Extremely good prices, very authentic, no waiters or nice atmostphere. http://www.nyganeshtemple.org/temple/... The dosas in particular are excellent.

                                                1. e
                                                  emgoodman RE: madkittybadkitty Dec 29, 2009 03:20 PM

                                                  I'd recommend Punjabi Tadka, 688 10th Ave (Btwn 48th & 49th St)

                                                  I am also pregnant with cravings! The little sprout in my belly goes nuts for those spices!

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