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Punjabi Cabbies, Rotie And New York City: Da Dhaba


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
New York Da Dhaba


On the roads leading to Punjab, or roads within the State itself, if you need to find a place to eat salivating Punjabi food, you simply ask a bus driver or a truck driver. They know the dhabas that serve the best homemade delicacies.

But, what if you are in New York, the city that never sleeps at night, and you need to chow down some good Punjabi food? At 2:00am or 2.00 pm?

Here, if you ask a bus driver or a truck driver, he will tell you to take a hike. But ask one of the many singhs behind the wheels of their ubiquitous yellow-cabs and they will point you to the one and only 24/7 dhaba in New York City.

Located at 114 East 1st street in downtown Manhattan, there is a little hole-in-the-wall dhaba which might be a little hard to spot even if you Google it. But you can be certain there is at least one yellow cab parked in the vicinity.

The dhaba is aptly named "Punjabi".

Don't let the rundown buildings around it or the graffiti-laden sign fool you. Kitschy calendar images of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh welcome you, with the message, 'God is One', on the window. As you descend four steps from the street level and enter the restaurant, you pass Gurbani and Punjabi cd cases adorning one side of the wall, and handwritten signs for cab and livery drivers on the other. One or the other of the very same cd's is always playing in the background.

In the middle of the floor, next to the cash register, you'll find six trays of homemade dishes - choices of the day - alongside pakoras, samosas and an assortment of sugar-packed Punjabi sweets.

The main dishes vary from day to day but Sarson Da Saag seems to get preferential treatment over its cousins. Dishes are served on paper plates, alongside the roties - maki di roti, if you wish!

The dhaba, popular among Punjabi cab drivers, always seems to be doing brisk business with non-Punjabi Americans as well, popping in and out with frequency for a quick take-out. There is no place to sit and eat. You only have a narrow wooden shelf on one of the walls to place your plates. It doesn't seem to matter - once you take a mouthful of the saag or daal or kale chole or karhi, you are in bliss.

And this trip to heaven is cheap. An average meal costs $4-5.

You can wash down the food with a hot masala chai or a coffee latte. But if you have a sweet tooth like I do, ras malaai or kheer might be your way to slide down the food.

The owners and staff are a friendly bunch. They exude Punjabi hospitality - smiles and welcoming nods are free and in plenty. You walk away feeling you've been given preferential treatment.

This dhaba has been serving New Yorkers for well over a dozen years, and is now developing a reputation to match the proverbial New York souvlaki, bagel or smoked-meat sandwich.

So, the next time you're in New York and feel like noshing, hail a cabbie ... and if you see a dastaar and beard in the shadows, ask for the Punjabi Dhaba! You may find it worth a try.

Just in case you want to visit. The map is attached. Narayanjot Kaur


  • 114 East 14th Street.jpg
    114 East 14th Street.jpg
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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
I became a little frightened after posting the article above. What if this deli was not any longer in business. There is an upscale Da Dhaba closer to mid-town Manhattan. What if they moved? Became a fancy place. Well, No, it didn't happen. It is still there and more of an institution than before when it was reviewed in SikhChic.

In the story below-- the author compares samosas at Desi Dhaba versus Dhaba Punjabi Grocery and Deli
Battle of the Dishes--Hole-in-the-Wall Samosa Smackdown

By Sarah DiGregorio
Tuesday, Jun. 16 2009 @ 4:55PM

Battle of the Dishes: In which we pit the same dish from two different places against each other to see which one will emerge victorious.

Ah, the samosa--beloved gut-bomb, starter Indian food, and perennial cheap eat. There are places where you can get a very fine samosa (Elettaria has a curried rabbit version), but the grab-and-go, pre-fried, humble, starchy dumpling has its charms, too. It's a meal in the palm of your hand, combining fried crust with hot spices and potatoes, three of the most crowd-pleasing things in the food universe.

What makes a good, down-and-dirty samosa? A crust that's crunchy and well-seasoned, and that's not totally weighed down by grease. (If find a cheap place that fries them to order, please notify us tout suite.) The filling should be spicy, heavy on the cumin and chile, and we like plenty of peas mixed in with the potatoes, too.

For this Battle, we confined ourselves to Manhattan, and focused on ultra-cheap, hole-in-the wall spots. Both Desi Deli, in Hell's Kitchen, and Punjabi Grocery, in the East Village, are Punjabi Sikh spots, open 24 hours and frequented by cab drivers.

Desi Deli Punjabi Dhaba's (a dhaba is a roadside snack stand in India) samosa ($1.25) sported a pleasantly bubbly crust, as light in texture as a pre-fried specimen is going to get. Pour on the homemade green chile chutney. But while the filling was nicely spiced, it was mostly composed of potatoes, which got boring after a few bites. (On the other hand, Desi Deli does sell something else that's fantastic, which I'll post about tomorrow.)

Downtown, and onward to Punjabi Grocery (this is the one in the post above), where we descended the steps to the subterranean room, and promptly got distracted by the packaged snacks, like a kind of spicy corn nuts labeled "Desi Corn." Whee! Back to the task at hand, we ordered a samosa ($1), and dabbed it with the delicious red hot sauce on offer. This pastry was just fine, although not quite as good as Desi Deli's, but the potato filling was peppered with plenty of peas, along with copious chile powder and cumin.

Punjabi Grocery's samosa was declared the winner, and it paraded around the samosa wrestling ring pounding its little pastry chest with glee. :happy::happy:

That is the one!

Source http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/archives/2009/06/battle_of_the_d_1.php



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