There are few better ways to end an evening than at a 24-hour Indian Deli, leaning against the counter and digging into a bowl of curried vegetables and rice. I know I've said multiple times that you can find anything you want at any hour in New York, but even I didn't think I could get so specific.
We were on the corner of Spring and Bowery when MDP suggested we get Indian food. I wasn't really in the mood for a sit-down dinner at 11 o'clock at night, but I followed anyway. To my delight, that's not what we were doing at all.
The Punjabi Grocery and Deli has an unremarkable green awning, and three steps leading down to it from its 1st Street location. Behind the counter are Bollywood films for sale. A glass counter to the left of the register holds a trove of home-cooked Indian goodies, signified only by a number. I don't know exactly what everything is, but I make out a saag paneer (a creamed spinach made with homemade cheese), a curried vegetable dish, and samosas. Everything is vegetarian. MDP, who has been there many times before, orders us two combinations of the same numbers. I don't know what I'm about to eat, and I don't know that he does either, but I trust him and shortly we dive in. The two of us eat for a grand total of $7.
Both of us are a little hazy from an evening of gallery openings and their open bars, so either the food just tastes delicious or it actually is. Peas, carrots and creamy yellow curry pop into my mouth via plastic fork and styrofoam bowl. MDP tells me to stir it up, but I stupidly ignore him and am shortly left with a bowlful of vaguely yellow rice, which I eat anyway. Next time I will know better. Under the counter where we lean are stacks upon stacks of Indian newspapers. Overhead are packages of Indian cookies, snacks, and candies.
Like traveling with someone in their hometown, there's a beauty to seeing New York through someone else's eyes. What are their favorite haunts? Why do they like particular places so much? And if they've gone there repeatedly and never gotten food poisoning, what's to stop you from trying it, too? It's nice to go out with someone and find yourself a little more fearless than even you thought you could be. MDP works in the area of the deli, and found it on accident one time on a lunch break. Now he's a frequent visitor. It took next to nothing to convert me, too.
So next time you find yourself in need of munchies (drunk or otherwise) on the Lower East Side, I recommend you head to the Punjabi Grocery and Deli. It's far better than $1 slices.
Punjabi Deli & Grocery
114 E. 1st St between 1st Avenue and Avenue A
And if you're so inclined, the deli also has a Facebook page.