Downtown Lunch: Pakistan Tea House
Making Downtown office workers jealous is something this blog has been doing for awhile now. To even the score, I’ve brought on Daniel Krieger as an official Downtown Lunch Correspondent to write up some of the tasty stuff you can get in the lower half of Manhattan. He’s a great photographer (insuring good food porn), but more importantly he is a lover of cheap, unique and delicious eats (or as I like to call it- Midtown Lunch’ish food), and seems to be particularly fond of Chinatown (my dream lunch location). This week, he ventures away from Canal St. to hit up the Pakistan Tea House, (Paki to those in the know) a favorite of many Downtown lunchers that can’t help but remind me of that Seinfeld episode where Jerry convinces the restaurant owner to stop calling his food Indian, in favor of his native Pakistan. I think I found it extra funny because my best friend from Junior High was Pakistani, and his family owned a restaurant called “House of India”. Hilarious!
Pakistan Tea house, on Church street (btw. Duane+Reade) is a downtown stalwart. The place has been there over 15 years and the recipes haven’t changed (a good thing), but neither have the tables, chairs, and decor (not so good). Just like most of the food in Midtown, if you want the best you are going to have to travel to the outer boroughs. And for Pakistani food, it’s no different (the best in New York can be found in Jackson Heights, Queens). But for those of us stuck in Downtown for lunch, there isn’t any better, fresher food, from this part of the world, and at these prices, than the Paki Tea House.
For under $10 you can feast for lunch or have yourself a late dinner for those nights you’re stuck at work (they’re open until 4am 7 days a week). The chicken or lamb combo ($7.50) comes with one of the several meat dishes they have prepared at the time, two vegetables and your choice of rice or naan. The bread is prepared fresh in the Tandoor oven when you order it, so it comes out piping hot and perfect for scooping up your food. If you’re like Zach (aka a fatso, on some sort of high carb diet), you can do bread and naan (for an extra $1.50) and still be under the official Midtown Lunch’ing price range. If you have to choose one, I’d say naan always comes before rice with Pakistani food, at least it did for me growing up in Karachi. Wait, did I say Karachi? I meant Connecticut- eating out at the local Indian restaurant once a month. Same thing, right?
For those who are not into spicy, the Chicken Jalfrazie is a nice mild dish combining bell peppers, onions, tomatoes. On the other hand, if you like to burn the hell out of your mouth, try the chicken Karahi, which has some serious kick. Vegetarians are well looked after here and on the cheap. For 6 bucks you get your choice of 3 vegetables with rice or naan. Standout veggies are the saag paneer and the basic but delicious cabbage flavored with oil and dotted with peas.
During the day it’s best to take your food to go. You can try to squeeze into one of the tables though be prepared to pass the plastic water pitchers around to your dining neighbors, a nice blend of taxi cab drivers and downtown white collar workers. Lastly, don’t forget to try the tea boiled in milk with spices like cardamom and cinnamon added in. After all, they named the joint after it.
Paki Tea House, 176 Church St. (btw. Duane+Reade), 212-240-9800
Photos & Writing by Daniel Krieger
Read more Downtown Lunch’es here