A port in a storm, an oasis in the desert, a refuge in the urban jungle – Punjabi Grocery & Deli is all of these, plus DVDs, breath mints, Thai soft drinks, Sikh devotionals and marvelously cheap sustenance.
Though they prepare the goodies at their kitchen headquarters in Jamaica, Queens and schlep them into Manhattan every day, the food is no worse for the wear. Not even subsequent microwavings can zap its deliciousness.
I took a cue from the cab drivers who crowded the place and tasted spinach curry with onions and potatoes (spicy-sour and heavy on turmeric), insanely good black bean stew and rice ($4 for the combination).
As I ate, my romantic notions about big flavors in unassuming places found a little more grounding – once again, taxi drivers proved they know more than a little bit about where to find the tastiest parts of their city.
Punjabi Grocery & Deli
114 East First Street (between 1st Avenue and Avenue A) – East Village
Open: 24 hours
Snacks/Meal Combos: $1.00-6.00
In the borough:
Jamaica Ave. between 112th and 113th streets