Two Indian Food Carts… One Block of Midtown
When opening a new business, there are two ways of going about finding a location. #1. Find an underserved area, where your presence will fill a niche that is currently not being addressed. Or there is #2. Find a successful business that is similar, open up next door, and either benefit from their overflow, or crush them under the weight of your greatness. (Or fail miserably.) Either way, I’ve seen #2 happen all over Midtown. Kobe Club & Quality Meats, the M&M store & the Hershey Store… and now- Indian Food Carts!
Last July I wrote about “Indian Fast Food“, a cart on Park Ave. & 53rd St. serving up styrofoam trays of Indian food for $4 and $5 (depending on if you wanted the meat). The cart is super cheap, and great if you work in the area, but with all the Indian choices in Midtown, the quality is not good enough to go out of your way for. Thanks to a tipster, I was informed that there is now another cart serving Indian food for $4 to $5 in styrofoam containers, and it’s popped up on the same block!!!
What this new cart is serving, how it was, pictures and a +/- after the jump…
While it may appear to be new to some, “Indian Food Express” has actually been around for over six months. The cart was located on 53rd and Lexington, but due to construction was forced to move West on 53rd, putting it within 50 yards of the “Indian Fast Food” cart. At first glance the carts seem practically identical. Your choice of a chicken dish or veggie dish, served with rice, dal or chickpeas, a little salad and bread. If you order the vegetarian dish it’s $3.99, chicken it’s $4.99.
I asked for a combo of both and the lady at “Indian Food Express” was happy to oblige, giving me a scoop of Chicken Tikka Masala (the chicken dish of the day), a scoop of Saag with potatoes (the vegetarian dish of the day), rice, a scoop of chick peas and a piece of chappati (flat Indian bread). It’s hard to pin down a cart, especially one like this where the dishes change every day, but I think the quality at “Indian Food Express” might be a little better than “Indian Fast Food“. It was definitely spicier, more flavorful, and most of all the chappati (while not the freshest ever) was much better than the stale pita bread kind of thing I got from “Indian Fast Food”.
But here’s the problem. When you go it might be totally different. I’ve heard all sorts of stories about these carts, so keep a few things in mind. The “Indian Food Express” cart supposedly gives you a choice between naan and chappati. She didn’t give me a choice, so I don’t know what the naan is like. Bread is always tough at carts like this, so it very well may be a stale piece of pita bread (just like “Indian Fast Food“). When I originally posted about that cart, a commenter swore the bread I got was chappati, but it definitely was not- leading me to believe that sometimes that cart has chappati as well. And according to my original tipster from the area, ”Indian Fast Food” has been serving the stale pita bread that I got on my original visit, more and more these days. Maybe you have to get their early for the chappati? Or specifically ask for it? Not exactly sure…
There is also the matter of the “pickle”. Listed as one of the items you get with your lunch on the menu, neither cart gave me the Indian relish- or offered it as a choice. They do offer it to some, but if you definitely want it, make sure you ask for it. All in all, both carts are so strikingly similar that it will probably come down to what each is serving that day to help you make up your mind. But based on my two experiences, I have to give the edge to the new cart on the block “Indian Food Express”. But neither is probably worth walking too much out of your way for… unless you have a severe addiction to carts (like me!)
THE + (what people who like “Indian Food Express” would say)
- Super cheap (you can’t beat a $4-5 hot lunch in Midtown)
- On my visit, the Chicken Tikka Masala and the Saag were more flavorful (and spicier) than the “Indian Fast Food” cart
- Neither cart has fresh bread (it’s a cart), and apparently the bread they serve changes day to day (and depending on what time you get there)- but the Indian Food Express chappati is much better than the “Indian Fast Food” pita thing.
- Great variety (she was more than happy to give me a little bit of everything for $5
- There’s a vegetarian option
- I love eating at carts!!!
The – (what people who don’t like this place would say)
- No matter what bread you get, it’s not warm or fresh
- There’s much better Indian food in Midtown… and worth paying an extra buck or two for quality and freshness
- If you don’t like spicy food, Indian Food Express is spicier than I remember Indian Fast Food being
- Sometimes they will leave out the bread or pickle, and you have to ask specifically for it
- Not worth traveling too far out of your way for
Indian Food Express, Normally at 53rd & Lexington, right now at 53rd btw. Park+Lex