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Local Chai Legend Lahore Deli Has Closed

The all-night destination for cab drivers and $1.50 chai ends its 25-year-run in Soho

A grey restaurant exterior with a sign pasted in the front window with “Lahore” in large letters.
Outside of Lahore Deli.
Google Maps

Lahore Deli, home to one of the city’s great cups of chai, has dried up. The storefront at 132 Crosby Street, between Houston and Prince streets, in Soho, posted a sign to its front door announcing the closure and thanking customers for 25 years of business. EV Grieve first reported the news.

Although there must be a dozen closet-size cafes serving South Asian food south of 59th street, Lahore was one of the earliest, located off a loading dock on Crosby Street on a tucked away thoroughfare that never attained the foot traffic of Prince Street or West Broadway. Even on this quiet side street, however, the narrow storefront managed to stand out, first for the double-parked cabs out front, and later for the crowd of customers munching carryout on its dock.

It was the rare place where New Yorkers could eat well for $5 or less, and feast upon deeply burnished samosas with plenty of creamy green chutney, chickpea curry, chicken tikka, rice pudding, and chai — the latter becoming something of a signature. The operators didn’t stint on the sugar, and its strong flavors of cardamom and cinnamon found fans at Bon Appétit and elsewhere.

Lahore’s earliest customers were yellow cab drivers, who crowded its storefront at all hours in search of takeout Pakistani and Indian fare and cups of $1.50 chai. That crowd hasn’t gone away, but it’s lost some of its luster over the last year as taxi drivers turn to Uber and Lyft, or other lines of work. As of September, there were roughly half as many yellow cabs operating in New York City than before the pandemic, according to the New York Times.

Similar establishments in the area have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic due to a downturn in foot traffic from tourists, office workers, and especially yellow taxis. Eater attempted to reach out to the deli for more information.

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