Think about a restaurant that can be described by the following: it services people from all different backgrounds, including cab drivers. It’s cheap enough that pretty much anyone can afford it. It’s completely free of any pretentions and food trends. And the food is delicious. Doesn’t all of that sound great? The other day while eating lunch at Punjabi Deli I had an epiphany — the tiny little vegetarian Indian “restaurant” is my favorite eating experience in NYC.
If you’ve never heard of it, Punjabi Deli is a small grocery store on Houston that serves great Indian food. You can eat in, standing hunched over the narrow counter, shoulder-to-shoulder with a random collection of New Yorkers. Sure, they use a microwave to heat up the food, but when you taste it you won’t mind. In the bowl in the foreground is a samosa — in this case, cut open and topped with yogurt, chickpeas, raw onions, and a variety of chutneys and sauces. It’s one of my very favorite things in the city — a mix of hot and cold, salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth.
As a food blogger I get asked a lot about my favorite restaurants in the city, and for some reason Punjabi Deli never occurs to me. That changed, as of that lunch a few weeks ago. It’s the new place I want to take out-of town guests to. Plus, il laboratorio del gelato is right across the street so you can get a little dessert to cool your mouth down from the spices.
Punjabi Deli — 114 E 1st St #3, Manhattan