It wasn’t until customers Neha Dharkar and Varshaya Visvanathan bumped into each other at Fort Greene’s Brooklyn Curry Project, a food stand specializing in dosas and other South Indian dishes, that they became close after not seeing each other since they were children. Over a year later, the duo has made it their thing to meet nearly every Saturday at the farmers market stand that ignited their friendship.
They are just one pair of many regulars at Brooklyn Curry Project, who swear that this is where to find some of the best dosas in New York City. While Manhattan has its own park dosa stand, Brooklyn Curry Project has made a name in Brooklyn for functioning as much as a social event as an eating experience. And it also doesn’t require as much time commitment as a restaurant nor the price of entry for a sit-down spot.
Wife and husband, Swetha and Venkat Raju started the stand more than a year ago, serving the South Indian cooking that reminded them of home. The duo moved from Bangalore, India to New York City in 2016.
“We didn’t have any friends at first so we just started cooking for our neighbors as a way to meet people,” said Swetha Raju. By 2021, they started selling dosas from a stand during the Fort Greene farmers market hours, Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. While they are not affiliated with the market itself, they set up across the street at Washington Park Avenue, where it meets the Open Street of Willoughby Avenue.
The stand specializes in dosas — masala, ghee, or vegan cheese — but also serves idli, steamed rice cakes, combo lunch platters with khichdi, sprout salad, and pickles, as well as uttapam, a rice and lentil crepe. There’s also a jarred nut butter for sale, made with ashwagandha. Daily specials are announced on Instagram. And everything on the menu is $10 or less.
The masala chai (there’s a vegan version, too) is made with single-origin spices that are ground fresh that morning: “He knows what he’s doing, he’s so meticulous,” Swetha Raju, says of her husband. There’s also an emphasis on sustainability; bring your own containers for food and get five percent off.
The Rajus, who also work as an engineer and lawyer, say it’s “it’s a lot of physical strength,” to run the food stand in addition to their full-time work, “but we find it so nice, it’s such a satisfaction that we get,” says Swetha Raju.
“Apart from the passion to introduce authentic and traditional South Indian food to the community, we source from local farmers, and the menu is based on seasonal produce,” she says. Brooklyn Curry Project collaborates with their neighbors at the farmers market including potatoes from Lucky Dog Organic and microgreens from Evolutionary Organics.
Lines start forming almost immediately at 10 a.m., and it’s a ritual that customers return to, not only for the food but for the couple.
“There just really is a community feeling to this stand,” says Jackie Fu, a neighborhood resident who works in tech, but also is also a co-founder of food collective Gan Bei Gals. She added that she’s gluten-intolerant and gluten-free Asian food has been a struggle for her to find, making it a top-of-mind suggestion for friends with dietary restrictions.
“It’s vibration cooking,” says Satyama, who asked to just use her first name. She says there’s no food she has been more excited about in her 50 years of living in the area. The duo immediately greets her and remembers her as a day-one supporter. She says even when it was snowing, Brooklyn Curry Project didn’t stop preparing her food.
Most patrons have found Brooklyn Curry Project through foot traffic, but a growing number of people, this reporter included, are stumbling upon them on Instagram. That was the case for customer Fiona Noring, who saw a post of a meal there from someone they didn’t know personally and was nevertheless inspired to wait on line in the cold.
Brooklyn Curry Project is trying something new this winter with a CSA launch: $90 for 10 weeks. Customers can sign up for a container of rotating dosa batter to make themselves at home.
“I use it for multiple lunches during the week,” said Kelly Pang, a CSA customer who had returned with her jar for more of the fermented batter. She says she mainly sticks to recipes the Brooklyn Curry Project posts online, but she mixes in leftovers, too: “I’ve even tried adding gochujang.”