Food & Drink

A Local’s Guide To The Best South Asian Food On Coney Island Avenue

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Arsalan Naeem, owner of Taj Mahal Hardware & Building Supplies (Photo: Ben Smith)

The stretch of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and/or Indian restaurants on Coney Island Avenue — mostly between Beverley and Cortelyou — can make for hard choices if you’re new to the neighborhood, and even most who have lived here for a while settle on one (Madina is my standby).

But Arsalan Naeem, a longtime resident and foodie who runs Taj Mahal Hardware & Building Supplies on that strip, has informed opinions on them all, and he took some time to share them the other afternoon.

Punjab Restaurant

This one is Arsalan’s favorite, and has been around the longest. It’s where you’ll find the closest thing to “a home-cooked meal — everything has a house touch,” he says. His personal favorite: The okra, with roti or naan. They have, he notes, a Bengali chef.

Shandar Sweets & Restaurant

Along with a big counter of super-sweet desserts, Shandar has the usual array of savory offerings. This, says Arsalan, is “bachelor cooking” — food with a “manly touch.”

Mashallah Sweets & Restaurant

To the amateur, this seems like yet another curry spot, and the folks on Yelp seem to like the lamb korma in particular. But Arsalan says the kitchen is in fact putting a more contemporary spin on the standbys. “They want to mix everything and decorate,” says Arsalan. It’s “up to date food with a traditional touch.”

Madina

With is prominent position on the corner and quick delivery service, Madina is a personal favorite of mine, and its two owners — one Indian, one Pakistani — have been hospitable since its opening more than 10 years ago. Arsalan said he likes the food, but considers the menu slightly exotic. Along with the usual curries Madina offers “food you only hear about in the movies — fancy food,” like the South Indian masala dosas (served when a co owner’s mother is in town).

Chabba

This is the third recent iteration of the larger restaurant and catering hall, and it offers “BBQ & Desi Fusion.” Come here, Arsalan says, for the atmosphere — tablecloths, more formal service — and the range of food, including Chinese and Afghan as well as South Asian.

Hadi

This small restaurant, across Coney Island Avenue from the rest, describes itself as Turkish as well as — like most of the others — Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian. “They might have like 20 more dishes than the other restaurants,” says Arsalan. “But when you go to eat you always see the people order the same few things.”

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The restaurants have, of course, not just different styles but different scenes. “You go to each one of them you see a different set of people,” says Arsalan.

If you’ve got more questions, I’d recommend you ask him — and buy some hardware while you’re there. Taj Mahal has an excellent selection and a proprietor who is, if it’s even possible, more knowledgeable about building supplies than food.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. I have to say, I haven’t loved anything in the area, but I also haven’t really loved any curry in New York. Everyone seems to be catering for a different palette here, and that’s ok if that’s how things work, but I just haven’t found a single curry (and believe me, I’ve tried a few dozen by now) that is how I like things back in the UK, where curry is essentially the national dish. Not sure what it is, but the flavours here are just more bland, the sauces are watery, and there is no spice. All in my opinion, of course.

  2. Agreed. So many restaurants here aim for some sort of “fusion” menu, which in practice just boils down to “the most mediocre dishes of a wide variety of cultures and cuisines”.

  3. i can see that. I’m no expert but generally found indian food in london better, both the “authentic” type places and the more modern fusion-y places. Things are definitely spiced down here, but to me that’s not necessarily bad, had a couple of mouth and stomach blistering curries in uk that seemed like too much of a good thing. chacun à son goût

  4. Chris, you are correct. Indian restaurants were few and far between in NYC up to 10 years ago and in general very much veered towards bland as it was too “adventurous”. Things have changed though, there are a few in Park Slope that i tried that would be far more like UK indian restaurants. Kinara and Kanan are 2 that might be more up your alley

  5. Since when did you become an expert on curry? Ever wonder why curry is the national dish in the UK? Here’s another white man who thinks he knows everything about curry.

  6. Since when did I say I was an expert on curry? I said I had not found anything that I had found a curry in New York that is how “I” like things back in the UK, notice the preference rather than an objective claim. If people prefer things here, that’s fine, I just don’t eat curry in New York, anymore after trying a few dozen. I get by.

    Here’s another person on the internet who jumps to whatever conclusion they want to without actually reading properly.

  7. Curry in hurry is my favorite. A block south is the largest indian vegan franchise in the world. Havent tried it but always packed

  8. Honey, can we just skip the food and snack on Arsalan? Damn, he is fine! I wanna lick him up…wanna lick him down…turn around baby, and let me lick him all around

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