Eater headquarters recently moved to the Financial District and you can imagine the flurry of restaurant recommendations the crew exchanged as we explored the area surrounding our new digs. We touted steakhouses and wine bars, gastropubs and banh mi shops, sushi joints and pizzerias, but nowhere in the mix was there any mention of the old-fashioned Indian lunch counters that dot this part of way-downtown. Indeed, these diehard places have become all but invisible —which is a shame, because the intensely meaty but also vegetable-loving provender has long fed the denizens of this frenetic neighborhood.
The gravy-intensive cuisine was first promulgated by India’s Mughal rulers in the 16th century, admired and adapted by British colonialists, and further updated in the modern era with such innovations as tandoori cooking and Indo-Chinese fare. Though the city’s choices in South Asian food now include all sorts of Indian regional cuisines from north and south — plus those of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Himalayan republics — Punjabi fare still has the power to excite. Come with us now as we survey the Indian cheap eats redoubts of Wall Street. Expect to dine well for $10 or less.
Telegraphing an old-fashioned perspective by its very name — Bombay has been called Mumbai for 22 years — Bombay’s Indian Cuisine has lingered in this spot near Battery Park for over a decade, with a brightly-lit dining room and plenty of table seating. The steam table fare is scintillatingly fresh and the masalas (ground spice combinations) different for each dish. Half the 16 daily offerings are vegetarian, typically including saag paneer (mustard greens and fresh cheese), tandoori-roasted vegetables, aloo baingan (potatoes and eggplant). There’s also a meaty lamb vindaloo and chicken tikka. Served in a white porcelain bowl, a meal priced at $9 includes rice and two large servings of any curry or kebab. 60 Pearl St., 212- 742-2222
— According to a Daily News article affixed to the wall, Diwan E Khaas refers to a throne room in the Taj Mahal, but the place is certainly much older than the date of the article suggests. Steam billows from this below-street-level spot on this obscure block of Cedar Street, where you can watch suited Wall Streeters pass by as you sit at the counter. The dishes are carefully marked according to hotness level — and, believe me, they can get spicy! The delicious fish curry is probably hot enough for anyone (and contains plenty of fish), but the chicken vindaloo is even more incendiary. A meal with a made-to-order naan or basmati rice is $9.50, which includes a choice of two dishes; cheaper daily deals are advertised on the signboard outside. 26-28 Cedar St, 212- 571-7676; 53 Nassau St, same phone number
— One of the highlights of Fulton Street’s cheap-eats row — which descends from Gold Street east to the South Street Seaport — long-running Tandoor Palace was founded in 1993. The serene elevated dining room is part of the appeal, remote from the bustling street, but so is the steam table itself with its choice selection of vegetable and meat-based curries. Menu highlights include goat masala, shrimp vindaloo, paneer kadai (fresh cheese sautéed with onions and peppers), and malai kofte (vegetarian meatballs in gravy). The tandoor-cooked breads are some of the best in town, especially the garlic naan. 88 Fulton St, 212-349-7643
— At the opposite end of Cedar Street from Diwan E Khaas, Ruchi is of more recent vintage than the other places and provides spectacular views of the World Trade Center tower from its windows. Though rooted in the Punjabi cuisine of India and Pakistan, the menu stretches to encompass all sorts of other regional cuisines, including South Indian dosas and thalis. All these features suggest it’s the most expensive of the list, and indeed the entrees range as high as $19 apiece. But consider the half-off deal at lunch on regular entrees, which would allow you to assemble a group of friends for an order of chicken xacuti (laced with coconut milk, from Goa) and lamb jardaloo (a Maharashtrian curry with apricots) to share. Lunch boxes are available to go for less than $10. 120 Cedar St, 212-227-8454
If you liked this piece, please check out 10 Old-Fashioned Indian Restaurants to Try in New York City.