There’s a Secret Indian Bodega Buffet at 420 5th Avenue!
I’ve always envied people who have a little candy or soda convenience shop in their office building to supply their 4pm chocolate pangs. But, to have an Indian lunch buffet in this same snack store? Now THAT’S taking it to a whole new level. As you enter 420 5th Avenue on the 38th Street side, there’s no indication whatsoever that such a place exists. It felt almost as if I was searching for a speakeasy Indian buffet, but thanks to a tip from Midtown Lunch’er Kimberlee, we turned the corner and there, in plain sight, was the lobby bodega, which is accessible to the general public (not just lucky employees of this building).
The small Indian buffet sits at the back of the shop and offers up your choice of five different entrees and a large pan of chicken biryani. For $5, you can get the Halal Chicken Biryani Special for a limited time only (which hopefully means forever) and for take-out only. I’m not sure why it says take-out only because there is literally no where to sit at this joint – you HAVE to take it somewhere. For $6, you can get the Halal Lunch Platter Special, which consists of two different entrees and white rice. Five and six dollar lunches? Sign me UP.
The particular day we went, there were 4 veggie options, and 1 meat option, but in the future, the owner said that they will have more meat dishes to choose from. He also apparently orders the food from somewhere on 37th and 7th and gets it delivered to the building fresh everyday around noon, so rest assured that it is not made in the closet behind the cash register.
I went for the $6 Halal Lunch Platter Special with Chicken Tikka Masala and potato with peas. I also bought a side of naan for $1 more. The owner asks you if you want sauce on your rice, but the containers don’t do a good job of keeping the sauce in the sauce section, so just expect that you’re going to get sauce on your rice, which is what I wanted anyways.
When I opened up my tray, I was a little disappointed at what looked like small portions – I counted seven small pieces of Chicken Tikka Masala – but I have to admit, between the two entrees, I actually was pretty full and even had a little bit of the potato with peas left over for the next day. I am the kind of (small-statured) person that can extend meals when other people can’t, so don’t count on leftovers. The Chicken Tikka Masala was pretty solid, buttery, tomatoey, and tender, and the potato with peas was smothered in a strong cinnamon tomato curry. I was into the strong cinnamon flavor, but I also ended up having to sift pieces of cinnamon stick bark out of the potatoes and peas, which was a little annoying. My friend didn’t have this same problem, so maybe I just got the cinnamon heavy spoonful. Everything was on the mild side, nothing was spicy.
My order of naan was given to me on an open plate, so by the time I brought it back to my desk, it was a bit cold and I had to reheat it in the toaster. I would have appreciated the naan wrapped in foil to go, but seriously, for such a cheap Indian buffet located in a bodega, I can’t really complain that much. For one thing, I’m totally impressed this place can pull this off. It satisfied my need for Indian food, it was crazy cheap, AND it had anything else I might have needed in addition to my lunch: Kit-Kats, Dr. Pepper, bandaids, aspirin, you name it.
All in all, I would say that if I worked in this building, or in a close radius to this building, this would be my jam. For $5/6, it does the trick. It’s nothing extremely mind-blowing, but the concept of having an Indian buffet in an office building convenience store won me over and might have even made this whole meal taste even better to me.
Can another lobby bodega owner continue this trend with a taco stand or Chinese buffet?
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- This place is CHEAP
- You can choose between a rotating cast of five entrees
- This is an amazing concept and I’m glad someone made this come to life
- It’s convenient if you work close to 38th and 5th, or in 420 5th Avenue
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- The food is great, but not amazing
- Small entree proportions
- Not that many meat dishes to choose from (though that may change)
- Nowhere to sit in the bodega, you have to take it to go
Indian Bodega Buffet, 420 5th Avenue (on 38th)