Kids Corner

Cuisine

New York Da Dhaba

by VISHAVJIT SINGH

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.

Conversation about this article

1: Jaibir Singh (Kolkata, India), March 26, 2007, 12:35 AM.

Really great info. Thanks for this great article.

2: Tim Stutts (New York City, U.S.A.), October 05, 2007, 5:56 PM.

A good description, but there are actually a total of seven dishes, and two dishes are there all the time - Chhole and Saag. Also, there are two seats in the back, if you want to sit down.

3: Sohan Singh (New Delhi, India), December 23, 2007, 3:44 AM.

I'd never heard about this dhaba before. Next time I'm in New York, I'll seek it out. Thanks for the info.

4: PARVINDER SINGH (Banur, Patiala, Punjab ), January 23, 2009, 9:16 PM.

I feel proud to be a Sikh ... menu bahut maan ae apne onha veeran te jina ne Punjab nu horna countries vich vasaa rakhia ae ... Makes me so happy.

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