On 6th Street between Second and First Avenues is Indian Row, where about a dozen Indian food restaurants compete for customers. Their menus and decor – heavy on all-year-round Christmas lights – are so similar there’s an urban myth they share the same block-long underground kitchen. There are two standouts: Brick Lane Curry House (306 East 6th St, tel: 212-979-2900) has a light, airy decor and a menu a notch above the others. Indian foodies praise their garlic naan and the Goan curry, the house specialty. Just around the corner is Malai Marke (318 E. 6th St, tel: 212-777-7729), where the popular dish is lamb dhansak, a sumptuous lamb curry cooked with lentils, cumin and ginger. Great people-watching from the front windows.
The official Little India in Manhattan is a several-block radius of Indian eateries and shops centered on Lexington Avenue near 26th Street (another Little India is in Jackson Heights, Queens). A standout choice here is Pongal (110 Lexington Street, tel: 212-696-9458), across from the famous food and spice shops Foods of India and Kalustyan’s. Pongal serves authentic vegetarian South Indian fare; recommended are the delicious dosas and the Royal Thali.
At Vatan (409 Third Ave at 29th St, tel: 212-689-5666) you take off your shoes and sit on cushions in a decor evocative of a village in Gujarat. Waitresses serve generous helpings of tasty vegetarian thali in pre-set menus.
Some Indian food fans say the best in the city is at Salaam Bombay in Tribeca (319 Greenwich St, tel: 212-226-9400), though there are complaints about poor service.
For upscale, inspired New Indian dishes that get rave reviews, head to Junoon (27 W 24th Street, tel: 212-490-2100) in the Flatiron District.