First Look At Hot Clay Oven: The Love Of Free Food Knows No Temperature Bounds

If you were outside yesterday then you know there were sub-freezing temperatures ahead of the snow, but that didn’t stop you lunch’ers from freeloading! When I got to Hot Clay Oven on Maiden Lane (at Pearl) at about 12:45 p.m. the line was nearly to the end of the block. It later grew longer as people walking by couldn’t resist the siren song of free food. After about a 30 minute wait outside, I got inside only to wait 30 more minutes to order my food. This wasn’t because of a lack of organization, but partly because people cut the line and partly because of the sheer number of people waiting. See what I scored for my patience after the jump.

The space is smaller than I thought it would be, and there’s not a ton of seating. I’m guessing they’ll put more tables and chairs in to the right of the counter but for the preview day that space was reserved for the snaking line of people. I talked to the owner, Vic, while waiting in line and he said that this is the first of four locations he hopes to open around the city including the next ones in midtown and somewhere in the Village.

I had plenty of time to contemplate what I would order from the menu, which was good because there are a ton of different options from the “vehicle” of your lunch like a naan wrap, salad or rice bowl (all $7.58). After watching the guys making naan behind a wall of glass I decided that looked like the way to go.

There are several different meat options and a couple of vegetarian ones like channa masala and paneer but I had been eyeing the beef kabob that was also being cooked in the tandoor. That’s when things got a little crazy. The workers behind the (extremely high!) counter had a panicked look in their eyes as I tried to figure out which of a million different toppings to get. And in an effort to not hold up the line, that was how I ended up with a beef kabob topped with peppers and onions, some chickpeas, tomatoes and then both hot red chutney and tamarind sauces. I agree with lunch’er estarriolevitch who said it was hard to choose sauces without being able to taste them.

This was what the finished product looked like. It was kind of like a giant middle eastern puffy taco, but a tasty one. A word of warning that the hot chutney will indeed set your mouth on fire, and that is coming from someone who loves spicy food. Luckily the piece of naan I got was of sound construction and didn’t have any holes in it, but I could see how there might be some issues if you get a saucy filling like the channa masala or pork vindaloo.

I’m interested in some of the other menu options like the soups ($4.14) and jalapeno naan ($2.53). They also serve alcohol, meaning you can get some rose water spiked with booze, or just drink a Corona during your lunch hour. Or there’s always a mango lassi ($3.45).

There’s no more free food, but you can get half off the menu starting at 11 a.m. today and tomorrow. The store is officially open on Friday with regular prices so get your cheap food while you can.

Hot Clay Oven, 101 Maiden Lane (at Pearl), (212) 269-2103



  • If anyone goes on the early side today (i.e. before 1pm), can you report back on the line? Would love to try this today.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Beef? What kind of indian restaurant serves beef? Color me dubious.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    @rodalpho: I forgot to mention that they also have Jamaican steak as a protein. I’m guessing this is the “fusion” side of the menu.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Hot Clay Oven is offering half off entrees today and tomorrow as a “preview” to the January 14th grand opening. Being that it’s the unofficial opening, it’s understandable that the staff were highly disorganized as the owner corralled his patrons into an organized line. I have never been to this type of Indian restaurant that resembles a catered, fast food buffet. I lived next to Jackson Heights Queens for many years and have dined at some of the best Indian fare NYC has to offer. Indian Clay Oven is not on this list. I could not be more disappointed in this establishment. I ordered the Tandoori Paneer over rice with Mint and Coriander Chutney and 2 orders of Samosa. The bowl contained less than 1 cup of bland rice and a tablespoon and a half of paneer. The Samosa was over fried, small and mainly dough. There aren’t many Indian restaurants in the Financial District, however, you’d be better off at Tandoor Palace on Fulton Street (and I’d rate them as 2/5) or frozen Indian entrees from Gristedes. Yes, it was that bad.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Tandoor “gristly bits of chicken cartilage in your curry” Palace is better? I wouldn’t feed that to my dog.

  • This is hilarious.

    This midtown gal just happened to be on Maiden Lane at lunchtime yesterday. Small world huh?
    I was also going for free food! Small world huh?

    However, here is the difference. I did not wait on line anywhere, and certainly not in 26 degree temps outdoors.

    I did three – yes 3! – free deals back to back. First up was a free burrito at $8 Tolache Taqueria (delicious! pork and cabbage! great service!), a free $7 hot roast beef sandwich at Toasties, and a free slice at Roselle’s. All on or within a block walk of Maiden Lane.

    I love me some free food, but am not waiting one hour, half of that in 26 degrees for it. Unless it is DelFrisco’s or something like that. But not for a $7 Indian wrap.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I’ve been eyeing this place for the past few months and waiting for it to open. I couldn’t make it for the free food on Tuesday but wanted to. Anyway I just finished eating my 50% off meal from Hot Clay Oven and it was perfect! I ordered a naan wrap and a mango lassi. I added some jamaican steak (they gave a generous portion), peppers and onions and tamarind sauce to my naan wrap. I also got a side of carribean salsa. This combination was so delicious and the steak was so juicy. The peppers and onions were super crisp and fresh. The mango lassi was the best I’ve ever had. I’m going back for more tomorrow (or maybe tonight if I can’t wait)!

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Since the preview and soft opening, I have been to hot clay oven four times. I have been pleased with my meal, quality of food, service, and overall presentation of the restaurant. The proteins that I have tried have been different each day from the Jamaican steak, to the tandoori chicken, malai chicken, all the way down to the pork vindaloo. All of the meats are seasoned well and provide incredibley flavourful (a strong contrast to the chipotle across the street where the meats have no flavor at all) an they are grilled quite well as they are not dry.

    I was able to try various combinations from the salad bowls, rice bowls, wrap, and of course the flagship naan. I LOVED the naan, and I highly recommend the different types of naan they offer (garlic naan and jalapeño are amazing).

    Hot clay oven had a nice drinks selection, which I really appreciate and I hooked on the mango lassi. They also offer lots of alcohol drinks which is great.

    Overall, I have been very impressed with hot clay oven, and I can safely say it’s my new favorite place to have lunch!

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I really enjoyed the lunch there. Naans were fresh and taste of their entrees is very distinct. Everything was really fresh and delicious. I’ve gone back 5 times since they’ve opened.

Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.