Indian restaurants in New York City go back over a century, and Times Square was an early hotspot. Perhaps the most famous was the paradoxically named Taj Mahal Hindu Indian Restaurant, founded in 1918 at 242 West 42nd Street, when many South Asian students, businesspeople, dock workers, and sailors lived in nearby boarding houses. The New York Times mentioned it glowingly.
Midtown remained the main repository of Indian restaurants, as curries migrated onto the menus of more effete restaurants and hotels. By the 1970s, there were many steam table establishments serving Punjabi fare in various parts of the city, ladling rice and curries into compartmentalized plates and slinging tandoori items that competed with our earliest barbecue joints when it came to smoky flavors.
Then along came campuses of Indian restaurants in places like Jackson Heights, Murray Hill, Jersey City, Utopia Parkway, and Edison, New Jersey, with sit-down restaurants offering specialties of several regions. Eventually, we had restaurants dedicated to individual dishes like biryani and dosas, the food of a single city or region, and Mumbai and Kolkata street snacks. Finally, a new variety of luxury establishment appeared, offering more creative and nuanced takes on classic dishes as well as some invented ones, along with strong cocktails, attracting a whole new generation of diners.Read More