The plan had been set in motion a few weeks past - an afterwork evening jaunt to Jackson Heights with my friends Kurt and Kristin, in the hope of reveling in authentic Indian cuisine. Kurt, who actually lives in the ‘hood, was certain that the famed Jackson Diner was the place to go for Bolly delights. But, what the heck did Kurt know? He’s from Tennessee and will eat anything as long as it’s on a stick and/or fried. Besides, the folks at Chowhound didn’t have very good things to say about the place.
Kristin and I, die-hard foodies both, would have to conduct a little research before venturing into this multicultural nabe. We didn’t want to take a bad culinary turn and there was no trusting Kurt’s tastebuds. After some sniffing around on the Internet, we decided to take Chowhound “Big Dog” Jim Leff’s advice and hit Fiesta Mexicana, a Jackson Heights Mexican BYOB, rather than precariously explore Indian curries and such.
Kurt agreed to the gameplan, as long he could be in charge of the hot spot for drinks beforehand. Kristin and I had a strange feeling that although Kurt might not be a gourmand, that he most likely was quite a fine drunk. We agreed.
We headed off the 7 Train through the bustling city streets, trees aglow with tiny sparkling lights in celebration of the Indian festival of Diwali. On route to what Kurt promised to be a “fabulous dive,” Kristin and I couldn’t resist stepping inside the Indian grocery haven - Patel Brothers. The store’s air was thick with spices as we made our way down the aisles. We could hardly pull ourselves away from the shelves crammed with boxes, jars and bottles containing exotic wares such as Rasoi Magic Biryani Mix, Kelkar’s Sweet Lemon Pickel, Swad Gulab Jamun, New Vrindaban Cow Ghee and Haldiram’s Rose Syrup. But, once we spyed a box of Cannabis Incense (pictured above), we realized that it was time to move on. (Just the thought of M.J. was making us ravenous.)
Almost ready to turn heel and go straight to the restaurant, we instead forged onto Kurt’s barroom pick - the Ready Penny Inn. And, what a dive it was! The Coronas were cold and the barmaids were Irish (loved the buxom lass wearing the “See that you’ve met the twins!” tee), but the piss-poor booze selection (Gordon’s was top-shelf), nasty wood paneling, decades-old video games and loud, unsavory clientele took the tavern over the edge. If you think a good dive is a thing of beauty, the Ready Penny is the celebrity model of your dreams.
Three rounds later we staggered out, picked up a six-pack of Negra Modela and made our way to Fiesta Mexicana. A quick request from Kurt for a bottle opener brought the bad news - they wouldn’t let us open our liquor. Apparently there had been trouble from the authorities.
It was late, we were on our way to a lovely buzz - which we wanted to keep going - and we were starved. We wanted booze. We wanted food. We wanted it now. Where to go?
So, Kurt had is way after all - and to tell you the truth Jackson Diner wasn’t too bad. The Murg Tikka Makhanwala was particularly nice, as were the Mango Martinis (however, I don’t think the latter could be considered authentic Indian fare).
Don’t know what burg we’ll try next for ethnic cuisine. But, I do know this: We already have six Negra Modelas ready for the trip.