Have Indian Food Carts Left the Steam Table Joints In the Dust?


A couple of days ago I went and tried the slightly out of bounds location of Minar (on 31st btw. 5+6th). It’s never been featured on ML before, but the food is pretty much identical to the more famous Midtown location on 46th btw. 6+7th.  The original Minar was actually one of Zach’s earliest Midtown Lunches and amazingly enough, the post still resonates today, FOUR years later. Back in ’06 Zach wrote, “I went with the Chicken Tikka Masala (for sake of comparison with other places), the Lamb curry, and the Saag Paneer… but the curry was too watery.” I had the exact same order and the same qualities could be found in Minar today. I guess you’ve gotta hand it to them for consistency!

Minor complaints aside, it’s still a reliable Midtown Lunch… although the prices have changed.  Zach had his meal with a naan add-on for $8.25. I passed on the bread and it was $8.60 after taxes.  However, I did notice right away there was only three chunks of meat for my tikka masala and lamb curry. A bit on the stingy side if you ask me. Is it possible to get more proteins for your money in this era of the great recession? In the years since the original Minar post, lots of quality Indian carts have popped up like the Biryani Cart, Famous Dal Cart, the Desi Food Truck, and the Dosa Cart. Is good, ML-priced Indian food only possible if we visit carts now? Do you guys have thoughts on this? Are you visiting brick-and-mortar Indian joints or heading to the carts for a quicker and more satisfying meal?

Minar, 5 W 31st St (btw. B’way+5th), 212-967-2727


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    Good post.

    I do both. Grill 44 vs the 48th and 3rd cart. The random Indian Place in Grand Central is not bad considering it is in Grand Central.

  • The carts are definitely more exciting than the brick and mortar joints. Minar is on my once-a-quarter visit rotation, whereas I go to the Biryani cart almost weekly.

    I do miss working on the East Side just because of Joy Curry though

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    maybe indian food is easier to make at a cart than other foods? they just sorta sit there any simmer … but what i really want is more meat! whether it comes from truck or cart or brick it doesn’t matter :D

  • I guess I’m one of the few who do not consider the carts good Indian food, OK is what I’ve had, the problem is good Indian cannot be made cheaply, quality spices are expensive, ghee is expensive, a tandoori oven is very expensive and must be used for good nan and roasted meats, so it’s no surprise that there is little good Indian food under $10 in NYC, if any.

  • Better value from the carts fo sho.

    Grill 44 is usually for lunch at least once a month but I know Biryani Cart is better!! Too bad I’m in Midtown East. As for the pricing, indian buffet would be a better deal. Might as well pig-out for a few bucks more.

    Carts > Buffet > Reg. Sit-down

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    Joy Curry is consistent and always great. Also, all you have to do is ask and they are always willing to give you extra protein or veggies. Looks like I just figured out where I am eating lunch.

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    Stick to the veggie dishes and it’s $7.45 for three items and bread or rice. Or just go for a large bowl of the yellow lentils with whole wheat roti, that’s $5.50, one of the best cost/flavor/filling lunches in midtown for the price IMO.

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    I miss Spice Fusion!!!!

  • I still like Indus Express if I’m going to get something like tikka masala. Most days though I’d rather have a kati roll from the biryani cart.

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    Minar dishes out passable generic Indian food at low-ish prices (except for the saag which is gross, and the samosas, which are good). Very close to the 31st St location are Chandni and Punjab Palace, which have both been profiled on this site. I tried Punjab Palace, and I thought it was good food at a good value, although it has that greasiness that is common to all cheapo Indian food. Over by the other Minar, Indus Express is white people Indian food if I ever saw it, but at least they have decent chaat, which wins for freshness if not for flavor.

    As for carts, I enjoy Biryani Cart, but the food barely resembles Indian food, and I do not find the ordering chaos to be endearing, just annoying. Kati roll at Desi Cart was greasy as hell. I’ve decided that I’ll only eat kati rolls from Kati Roll, which is pricier than carts but well worth it.

    In general I agree with Ender–you have to pay for good Indian. But sometimes you just have slum it with cheapo Indian to get your fix.

  • Haven’t seen Famous Dal Cart for quite a while.

  • I go to the carts more often, but Indus Express does a few things pretty well. I like their goat and chicken curries, cabbage, methi mutter, chili chicken, and chaats. They’re pricier than carts but you do get a huge amount of food, with naan included in the price.

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    Growing up we had a few Chinese spots around and they all had their standout items so my brothers and I would split up our take out run to ensure that the meal was comprised of not just the best items from one place, but the best from the hood. I wish I could do this with lunch boxes from Indus, Minar and Utsav. For example, Indus portions, Minar Tikka or Cilantro chicken, the korma, rice and spinach from Utsav..etc..

  • this looks so unappetizing on so many levels.

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