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New York Dispatch: A Bangladeshi Diner in Transition

The man behind the counter at Rangdhonu Cafe laughed a big belly laugh when I asked him if a lot of taxi drivers ate at the restaurant.

Given that there’s a yellow cab parked out front every time I drive or walk by the Bangladeshi diner on 36th Ave, I guessed the answer was ‘yes.’

When I stopped by for dinner yesterday, two taxis were fighting for a parking place outside. The formica tables were half-full of men speaking what I guessed was Bengali.

Like a lot of cabbie-friendly restaurants in New York, most of the food at Rangdhonu comes from a steam table, and there’s no alcohol on offer.

Unlike a lot of cabbie-friendly restaurants, Rangdhonu isn’t necessarily a grab-and-go spot. They don’t sell Red Bull or pain killers, and they don’t play music.

Judging from the dishes I tried, the men who frequent the place are there for more than the food. Thanks to the mosque around the corner – and to its central location in an area of Astoria known as Little Dhaka – Rangdhonu is as much a gathering place for expats from Bangladesh as it is a cheap Bengali restaurant.

A microwave reheat rubberized the fish in what might have been a nicely seasoned tilapia masala ($7). And I was jazzed when I found bay leaves and cloves and prunes in my chicken biryani ($6), but I couldn’t get past the overcooked rice.

When I asked the man behind the counter to wrap up my leftovers, I struck up a conversation with Rangdhonu owner M.A. Karim, who explained that he’s planning on making some pretty dramatic changes to his menu.

In about a month, Mr. Karim said he’ll scale back from 60+ dishes to “no more than 20 dishes.” Most of the menu will center around kebabs and tandoori meats. He’ll make curries, too, but keep the selection down to two or three steam table dishes per day.

Despite a “C” grade from the Health Department, I’d be willing to give Rangdhonu another try after they’ve changed their menu.

I hope they keep selling desserts from Abdullah Sweets & Restaurant in Brooklyn, though – their shandesh (a.k.a. sandesh or chandesh, $5), a West Bengal specialty made with sweetened cottage cheese and raisins, was part of the visit to Rangdhonu I want to remember. Maybe this is what keeps the cabbies coming back.

Rangdhonu CafeMap it
29-14 36th Ave. – Astoria, Queens
Tel. 718-472-2950
Open: 9am-midnight, 7 days
Credit cards accepted

Abdullah Sweets & RestaurantMap it
91 Church Avenue – Kensington, Brooklyn
Tel. 718-766-5831
Open: 24 hours
Cash only

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  1. When do you think an appropriate time to return and reassess the situation there? I will mark it down for further inspection in a couple months!

    • I think a couple months would be about right – say around the beginning or the middle of May? I’d be very, very curious to hear how the new menu tastes!

  2. “A microwave reheat rubberized the fish”
    So, I’m guessing this isn’t really a place for eating fancy?