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!

Downtown Lunch: Paki Tea House

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.

Downtown Lunch: Paki Tea HouseFor 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.

Downtown Lunch: Paki Tea House

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



  • This is not really good Paki food. The naan is fresh but the meat was of poor quality and not really authentic. I hate to say it, but I ventured down there for nothing. There’s better out there. I guess the one thing it has going is that it’s cheap. I guess it could have been that the day I went there they were having a bad day. But I feel obliged to tell the fellow midtown-lunchers about my experience.

  • I hate this place, I’m hearing impaired and other than here I’ve never had any problems making myself understood or getting information on the dishes. After several attempts, I’ve come to the conclusion these people are just jerks.

  • Strangely here a Jalfezi is really quite hot and a Karahi much milder.

  • the only place you need to know for good Paki food is that spot on Houston where there are always cabs parked out front. Don’t know the name but you can’t miss it. Open late. Very cheap, very very good.

  • Eater – Sorry to hear that. They do have off days as I’ve experienced, but I personally know a dozen people that eat here regularly, including a friend from Pakistan who lives in the East Village and eats this type of food several times a week (and he said it was the best he’s had inside Manhattan).

    Again though it’s a high volume joint doing buffet food, not a sit down restaurant. I would try another dish and give it a second chance as I’ve been eating there for years now without complaint.

  • Just FYI my favorite Pakistani/Indian restaurant in all of NYC is the Kebab King in Jackson Heights.

  • Hey Krieger,
    I just ventured into Kebab King the other day after practically growing up in Jackson heights. I was so overwhelmed. I ordered the chicken & lamb kebab. Both were excellent. But I felt a wee bit uncomfortable being a female and all the dudes behind the counter were slightly intimidating. So, since the food was super, I was hoping for some recommends so that I could quickly order and get out….

  • Marina – downstairs is the togo area where you just sit and eat….kinda shady down there, but they have a sitdown waiter service restaurant up the stairs.

    Still though I try to go with my pakistani friend who knows exactly what to order and how to order it. I will ask him to post on here sometime this weekend to give some good recommendations of dishes.

  • But I’m heading there after work and thought I’d pop in & grag something. What I saw that I liked was the kebab being put in a crepe like wrap with lettece and tomato. Sigh. Honesty, the chicken kebab was amazing. It had pieces of jalopeno…hot & spicy.

  • yeah the kebabs are pretty spicy (they are a bit spicy at Paki Tea House as well). You can’t go wrong with a traditional chicken tika dish I don’t think..

    The kebab sandwich that you saw was probably just a kebab wrapped in naan with some lettuce, cucumber and maybe some yogurt chutney (that’s a common way to make it I think).

    You won’t go wrong with that..just ask for a kebab sandwich! good luck

  • Hi,

    I love your website…and i read it often. But your
    recent post about the Pakistan Tea House…has hit a
    nerve…if you will.

    I am not sure if you are aware of the implications of
    using the word “Paki”. It is very often a negative
    term and slur. Many younger Pakistani’s see the term
    as cool and use it among themselves…just as many
    African Americans use the N word. Unfortunately, many
    in the Pakistani commmunity use it without knowing its
    history. But i can assure, if you called someone of
    South Asian origins a “Paki” they will be offended.

    I have been called this and i can assure it has not
    aroused warm feelings…in any sense.

    Also, the word was a british construct…and its
    orgins go back into the time of colonialism.

    I have included a link to some more information on the
    topic. I hope that you would educate your readers(one
    of the commenters used the word as well) and remove
    the word from the post.


  • Hi,

    First of all, I would like to thank you for recommending such a great Restaurant in downtown. I work at a nearby electronic store. Every time I passed by Pakistan Tea house, there was a long line. I always wondered what was so special about this place. After reading your review I finally tried Pakistan tea house and Man I have no words to describe the delicious food. Although the place is not that well decorated but food is definitely worth the BUCK! the service wasn’t that bad either. The young man and the ladies were quite helpful in getting me Chicken Curry combo. One $6.50 meal is enough for two people. I have tried many pakistani and Indian restaurants but this place ROCKS!! unlike many Indian and Pakistani restaurant which use Artificial colors and cheap oil, at pakistan tea house the food looked and tasted Fresh and pure. I have taken many friends and co-workers to this place and every time I got positive response.

    I would love to recommend everyone to try this place.

  • Hmm I’m Pakistani and not so offended by the usage of ‘Paki’….my friends and I often say stuff like “oh is that guy Paki?”. I think in England it has negative connotations, but in the US, it is just an abbreviation. I definitely don’t think it has the same force as the ‘n’ word.

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