Sunday, November 23, 2008

An Indian Voyage to Jackson Diner


Fed up with the city, people, noise, traffic, pollution? Need to take a break before the end of the year madness but cannot afford to go anywhere outside the five boroughs? As difficult as the financial climate may appear to be, you do not have to leave New York in order to experience a little vacation, even if it might be for a day or afternoon.

One of the most interesting characteristics I find that make New York so unique is the unlimited access to countless international cultures. An infinite amount of neighborhoods within the five boroughs resemble native countries such as Italy, Greece, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Jamaica, Ecuador, Columbia, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Israel, China, Korea, Thailand, Japan, Russia, the list could continue as if I was reading the United Nations General Assembly roll call. If you take a map of New York City, close your eyes and place a finger on any area that you choose to visit for the day, chances are that some kind of foreign community lives there. How can you tell? One of the most apparent clues is the cuisine, of course.

I become more fascinated these days by the South Asian neighborhood, Little India in Jackson Heights, Queens. From Bollywood films to fine South Asian imports to people watching, this particular area increases my curiosity for a group of cultures I knew little of until now. A great way to soak it all in is to start with a small stroll on 74th Street. There, you will find one of the highest rated Indian restaurants in New York City, Jackson Diner. As deceiving as the name sounds, Jackson Diner offers you an accurate introduction to Northern Indian cuisine.

The restaurant’s spacious dining room and banquet hall has the capacity to hold the masses. If you decide to come on a weekend, the restaurant offers a buffet from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm for $10.95, offering a little something from their main menu including chat papri, samosas, tandooris, curries, vegetarian options, rices, tandoori breads, sides, and desserts. Even though the restaurant offers a versatile selection of dishes, there are some that sit out a little too long and can lose its flavor but I guess that is the luck of going for the buffet. For example, the nan was cold, and as much as I love their murg tikka makhanwala, the chicken was not marinated enough, leaving the dish too dry. Therefore, I recommend waiting for the hustling servers to replenish the dishes. It is well worth the wait.

If you opt for going during normal service hours, I highly recommend the murg tikka makhanwala or the goat curry. The creamy makhanwala sauce has a combination of sweet and spicy flavors will make you want to lick the plate once you are finished, and the goat has a supple but yet meaty texture that balances well with the curry. Most main dishes with the exception of the tandooris come with their ever addicting, sweet saffron rice, ral and raita. The restaurant offers a wide assortment of beverages from lassis to alcoholic beverages. I recommend trying a mango lassi either along with your meal or alone as a sweet finish if you are too full for dessert. Otherwise, you can choose from their small selection of ice creams and patties. Their take-out dishes can leave you with food for several days so this is a great option if you are not in mood to cook or maybe plan on entertaining friends and family.

I definitely plan on visiting my new neighbor more often as I continue to discover more international treasures in Queens. Jackson Diner opened my eyes to not only a whole new chapter of cuisine but also to another culture from the opposite end of the globe that is only a 15 minute walk away from my home. Who thought I could leave my own culture to South Asia in 15 minutes? I did not even have to take the subway. See for yourself, if not Little India but any other neighborhood in New York and the small trip alone can make you feel like you been gone for days all for the price of a meal and maybe a subway ride.


Jackson Diner
3747 74th St
Jackson Heights, NY

718.672.1232

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