Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
Nov 21, 2010 08:00 AM

NYC Jackson Diner Is Open!

As an unapologetic, longtime patron of the Jackson Diner (going back more than 20 years, to its original location), I was beside myself with excitement to learn that a branch would be opening at 72 University Place, a 10 minute walk from my apartment.

I had heard a while back that it would be open in "a few weeks." Last night, enjoying a rare Saturday night off (I'm a musician) with my family, we were in the neighborhood, and I decided to scope out the space. To my utter delight, it had opened that day! It's sort of in a soft opening state right now; the owner (the son of the original location's owner, who's always been a fixture at the Jackson Heights restaurant) said he's waiting a little while to create more publicity/fanfare.

In short, in was an excellent experience - great, fast service and delicious food. While not packed, they were definitely doing some business!

A few random items:

1) The menu is definitely "simplified" - fewer items, and no Southern Indian cuisine (bummer). The owner explained that it's tough to maintain the southern element, both for equipment and personnel reasons.

2) The menu features 16 appetizers, 2 soups, 1 salad, 5 tandoori specials, 8 breads, 13 vegetarian specials, biryanis, accompaniments, and 6 desserts. The one element I'm not crazy about is the "Curry Specials" section. There are 6 proteins (tofu, chicken, goat, lamb, fish and shrimp) that you can order 5 different ways: (masala, curry, sag, korma and vindaloo). A bit too generic for me - I love many of the specific dishes available in Jackson Heights (where are you Murg Tikka Palakhwala, Lamb Pasanda, etc.)? On a positive note, I will day that I ordered chicken korma from this section, and it was pretty much identical to my beloved Murg Korma from the original location. Pertions were perhaps a bit smaller than in Queens, but prices were quite reasonable, especially considering the location.

3) They will be delivering within a few weeks!

4) The lunchtime buffet is up and running.

I don't have time for amore thoroughly detailed post right now, but would be happy to answer any questions any of you might have.

I know the Jackson Diner doesn't get much love on Chowhound these days, but I vehemently disagree with the level of vitriol aimed at it - I have always had great meals and attentive service there, going back 20+ years. I am also not a one-trick pony - I always have, and still do, patronize a wide variety of Indian restaurants in this area and abroad.

In any event, I urge you to give the new location a try - especially since the neighborhood is seriously lacking in quality Indian food and delivery options. The new Jackson Diner is a welcome addition, believe me.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Is the food the same as the Jackson Diner in Queens?

    13 Replies
      1. re: Bob Martinez

        Bob -

        Funny - even despite my fierce loyalty to the JD! ;-D

        I've always enjoyed your posts, and definitely respect your Chowhoundish opinions.

        So, I'm curious as to yours (and others') specific gripes with the original location.

        I've been going to the JD consistently for ages (including some memorable, long-ago feasts with Jim Leff), and in my opinion, the food tastes pretty much the same as always. In addition, I've always been treated very warmly by the waiters and owners (who, of course, know me as a longtime patron).

        I don't doubt that people have experienced lackluster food/service on occasion, but I honestly have found the Jackson Diner to be consistently excellent. The only real area of criticism for me is connected with the change in vibe from the original location to the larger space up the block many years ago. Something was definitely lost there, but the food has remained my go-to standard when southern Indian restaurants, cabbie joints, the most upscale Indian that Manhattan has to offer, Queens temples, etc. just aren't hitting the spot.

        So please enlighten me, Bob and others - I just can't agree with vague, non-specific comments like "The Jackson Diner hasn't been good for 10 years" or having it described as "downright bad" by one poster.

        That has decidedly not been my experience.

        Looking forward to delving deeply into this subject!

        P.S. Alpha Dog, are you out there? It's your old piano-playing, joke-telling crony.
        Hope all's well!

        Jackson Diner
        72 University Pl, New York, NY 10003

        1. re: Rodan

          To each his own, Rodan. I think the food at the JD has never been particularly good, and I stopped going there a long time ago after trying many times. That's what makes a horse race!

          1. re: gutsofsteel

            GOS -

            So, what are some of your favorites?

            1. re: Rodan

              I've been enjoying Dhaba a lot these days.

              1. re: gutsofsteel

                Agreed - had my birthday dinner there this year!

                1. re: Rodan

                  Do you think the food at Dhaba is better than the food at JD?

          2. re: Rodan

            Thanks for the kind words Rodan.

            My first trip to the Jackson Diner was in the early 90s on my way out to Shea to see the Mets. These were the pre-Internet days; I had read about the JD in an article in the Daily News. I went with a friend and we ordered as much food as two people could reasonably consume. More really.

            The food was a solid o..k..a..y. Not bad but not the revelation I'd been led to expect. We tried it once more, about a year later and again it was lackluster. Since my trips to Queens were usually part of a visit to Shea I regularly ate really good Chinese in Flushing; I didn't see any reason to stop off in Jackson Heights to eat so-so Indian.

            Just so you can calibrate my taste, I ate lots of Indian food in London in the 1980s. By the time the 90s rolled around I wasn't getting to London very much but I found the food at Passage to India, on 6th St., to be a solid B. (Passage is long gone and was in decline for at least a year before it finally closed.)

            I never went back to JD. There were lots of posts here about how it was slipping and I figured that if I didn't think the food was all that great in its heydey then there wasn't a good reason to go back when people were saying that it wasn't that good.

            Since then it pops up on the OB board every couple of months. Some people who I trust very much went for years after the reports of its decline in the hope that it would get better. Finally even they abandoned it.

            I share your good opinion of Dhaba. It's my go-to place for Indian.

            Jackson Diner
            72 University Pl, New York, NY 10003

        2. re: gutsofsteel

          I think it's hard for the food at a restaurant of this type to be "the same" as a sister branch - so much depends on the chef, and we're not talking about the assembly-line rigor of say, a fast-food chain.

          As stated above, though, the chicken korma at the NYC branch tasted very similar to the Queens version, dubbed "Murg Korma."

          In addition we had two other excellent mains (Aloo Gobi and Vegetable Biryani), as well as mango lassis, naan and pudina paratha. All were very good, and similar to the Jackson Heights fare.

          Definitely a different vibe (nothing matches the original, tiny diner location, of course), but quite solid, and desperately needed.

          1. re: Rodan

            It's just that Jackson Diner (the original) is really lousy. Has been for a long time.

            Jackson Diner
            72 University Pl, New York, NY 10003

            1. re: gutsofsteel

              That's the consensus, sure, especially in recent years. But Rodan also makes a good point: "I just can't agree with vague, non-specific comments like 'The Jackson Diner hasn't been good for 10 years' or having it described as 'downright bad' by one poster."

              Can anyone who doesn't like the place give any details, like just what was bad and why? If not, those comments don't carry so much weight.

              Jackson Diner
              72 University Pl, New York, NY 10003

              1. re: squid kun

                The last time I went, which was when I said I'd never go back, the food was beyond greasy, and everything tasted the same pretty much.

                1. re: squid kun

                  Okay, I'll do it. Although Bob Martinez and I go out regularly to eat and agree on Dhaba, we disagree on the original JD. I started going there (original place) a little after the Daily News article came out... the one that they put on the tables under the plexiglass. When they still had the Nordic waitresses working the room. And the ocassional roach climbing the stained walls. In other words, a loooong time ago. Mid-80s? It was great. Unbelievably great. Home cooking at its best. The chicken cashew curry tasted of chicken, fresh cashews and had lively, distinct spicing. The lamb in almond sauce similarly so. Even the eggplant was non greasy, a hard thing to do, given the preparation method. I'm not saying that dishes were made to order (they werent) but the turnover was so great that I had to wait 1/2 hour for new batches to be made for takeout while I stood around eating a greaseless samosa. Having been a vet of E.6th St (from Mitali to Ganges to Sonali and all the other little places on the block) since I was a teen going to the Fillmore East, I was in heaven at JD. We went regularly for its remaining years in the old place & brought many friends.

                  Then it moved to the bigger location and we chuckled as Gianni tried to look comfortable in his new digs. Lines out the door here too and the food remained good for awhile. But the quantity of business (catering, takeout, upstairs parties, tables always filled) must have made it necessary for them to tinker with how they pre-prepared the basic stuff and we noticed that the depth was leaving the sauces after the 2nd year or so at this location. They got thinner and didnt have the clear definition of ingredients we were used to. The cashew curry got less distinct from the basic cream sauce and the almond sauce for the lamb became greasier and generic. It was still better than 6th St for years afterwards and we continued until about 3-4 years ago, so we have a good sense of how consistantly mediocre it became for over 5 years. But we still went back, since it was a good place to take friends and, let's face it, there wasnt a whole lot of competition... Jackson Hts restaurants (& their chefs) were coming and going too fast to establish a consistant reputation for a non local commuting from Bklyn and the Lexington Ave places were too expensive for what most of them were serving. And, if you ordered like you were tiptoe-ing thru a minefield, you could still get good food. The mixed tandoori meats were still good and the spinach/cheese was similarly ok. But even that got "sloppy" and our last 3-4 meals there were virtually tasteless (well, more like comparable to neighborhood places like Amin in Bklyn Hts... ehh) and the food seemed to come from large vats, not freshly made nor rich with flavor. Even the tandoori chicken was no longer moist and the cuts were skimpier and of less quality. We stopped going.

                  Bottom line: if you cant tell a difference in the depth of the flavors in the sauces and the moistness/flavor of the tandoori, then you're just not being objective. If Dom (at DiFaras) stopped using good cheese and tomatoes and used supermarket herbs on his pizza, I'd notice. This just aint the same Jackson Diner and hasnt been for years.

                  Now, will I go to the new place? Sure. Why not. I went to Demarco's when Dom's friend (& 2 of his kids) opened it. I"m an optimist. But I dont expect much. Hope I'm wrong. Maybe it'll last longer than Demarco's.

                  130 E 39th St, New York, NY 10016

                  Jackson Diner
                  72 University Pl, New York, NY 10003

          2. Boy, opinions on Indian food in NYC is all over the place. Over the years we have had a few meals at JD, thought it was good, or Ok. A good weekend brunch option. We also have liked Delhi Heights, though not everything there has been terrific, but friendly service. We recently had a good meal at Banjara. Packed on a Saturday night. We are not fans of Dhaba. Bhalti Grill has had some great dishes too.

            97 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003