Between getting totally turned around in the labyrinth of Greenwich Village (I ended up giving my poor customer a free ride), getting reamed by a worker bee who wanted me to step on it as we climbed 6th Avenue, and having a woman call me “sir” for the duration of our journey from Union Square to Soho (hooray, I’m invisible!), Saturday was a hard time to be behind the wheel.
Five hours (i.e. not quite halfway) into my shift, I was feeling pretty beat up. But for the first time since I started hacking in New York, my stomach was growling.
Apparently hunger had finally outmaneuvered my nervousness about my ability to do this job. Or maybe I was just too tired to be nervous anymore.
After I dropped off a sixty-something lady in a purple fur hat on Bleeker and West 10th (she’d been stood up by her breakfast date and was in a pretty bad way), I remembered an email I’d gotten a few days earlier from fellow food lover Choresh W.:
“…I couldn’t find anywhere on your blog Lahore Deli on Crosby St.,” he wrote, “A place that was founded by a Pakistani taxi driver and is full day and night with hungry cabbies. The food is great, the prices are low and the atmosphere is wonderful…and note the ‘wanted’ ads on the bathroom door.”
When I pulled onto the narrow strip of cobblestones that is Crosby Street in search of Choresh’s restaurant, a taxi driver was balancing a pile of food in his hands and climbing into his cab.
I squeezed cab #366 into a miraculously empty parking place and looked for the storefront beneath the scaffolding (which was painted a stylish grey-blue to match the building being restored. Not even construction is allowed to clash in Soho).
Everything we could ever need was contained in that shoebox of a take-out joint: an open bathroom, eight kinds of pain reliever, candy bars, breath mints and gum, cell phone ear pieces, cakes, cookies, gallon containers of Louisiana hot sauce, CDs in Urdu, free water, and a display case brimming with samosas, soups, and six kinds of curry. It’s all available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
Taking it all in, I felt as if the owner were speaking to me – and to every cab driver who crosses Lahore’s threshold: “I know it’s a hard job, and I know what you need to make it easier. Here, eat.”
While I waited for the microwave to zap my chicken patty, rice, dal, and eggplant and potato curry (total cost $7), I asked the manager if all of his customers were cabbies.
“At night, it’s mostly taxi drivers. During the day, we get people from the neighborhood, too.”
Unfortunately, they were out of the lamb biryani that Choresh said his wife “sears for.” But after a few bites of chicken patty (loaded with ginger, red chilies and cilantro), I knew I’d be back.
I was a fan of the dal, too – studded with whole cloves of soft garlic and topped with fresh cilantro – but the eggplant and potato curry didn’t have much depth beyond its spiciness (no Louisiana hot sauce necessary).
All I know is that my shift improved markedly after my meal at Lahore: I gave out the first caramel nip to the doorman at the Wellington Hotel after he let me use the bathroom and hooked me up with a fare to La Guardia, where I got lost and was forced to drop off my Michigan-bound passengers in the arrivals area. They gave me a nice tip anyway.
132 Crosby Street (near Houston), Soho
Tel. (212) 965-1777