34-47 74th Street
Jackson Heights, NY
(718) 672-1232

So for Queens Restaurant Week (admittedly, this was a few weeks ago) I went with some folks from work (Prospect Parks, Cat, and Gnome) to Jackson Diner, espoused by one (I won't mention Gnome's name) to be "the best Indian food" in New York. I think she was wrong. As usual, she thinks she was right. To her credit, she eats out a lot and the food was hardly bad by any stretch. To my credit, TFB. I write the reviews. Jackson Diner is one short block from the Roosevelt Avenue train station. We took the 7 from Grand Central and it took only 15 minutes or so to get there. Anyone reading this in Manhattan who was thinking of using the excuse that it's too far away or inconvenient to try eating across the river will have to come up with a better one.

Jackson Diner is aptly named. It's a diner. It's not fancy and sure doesn't try to be. Actually, I've been in diners way fancier and with way cleaner bathrooms. But I'm not the type to judge a restaurant by its loo (unless it's totally awesome, completely different, or so bad that I'd rather use a construction site port-o-potty). Above the floor, adding to the diner feeling, a large flat-screen TV sits playing Indian music videos, which, if you're not used to them (as we weren't... aren't) are bizarrely addictive to watch.

We got a table at the wall and proceeded to order. We were not rushed by the waiter to order, as some reviews I've found have alleged, but maybe we were. We were all over the map ordering, since Cat and Parks were new to the cuisine and we were focusing on them and not Mr. Waiter (if he wasn't being driven crazy then, he surely was when we had him break all of our 20s at the end of the meal). The first thing to come, of course, was the pitcher of water and pappadum bread. And, of course, along with the pappadum bread came the tri-tray dish of dipping sauces: mango chutney, spicy onion, and hiravi chutney (which we ignorantly and consistently referred to as "the brown one").

My appetizer was the Muligatawny Soup, which was excellent and which I have a habit of having to try at every Indian place I go to. You'll like it too, specially if you like spicy pea soups. The Chicken Tikka was ordered by Cat, which she, having never ever ever had Indian food before ever, liked. I didn't try it. The other two ordered Samosas. If you like samosas, Jackson Diner's are for you. They're big though, so since the appetizer came with two, it was very filling.

The entrees were all good, but in my opinion none were great. Everyone else liked them more than I did, but no one was rolling their eyes back in their head from an orgasm on their tongue. We pretty much shared everything, so here's what we got: Lamb Roganjosh, Goat Curry, Tandoori Chicken, and Murg (Chicken) Tikka Makhanwala. Everything except the Tandoori chicken was very curry-like and needed the rice since there was a noticeable absence of veggies. I love curry and liked every dish here, but again, none of them wowed me with their perfection. I was disappointed that none of them were spicy.

Dessert came with the prix-fix meal. Half of us ordered the Mango Lassi, an awesome mango milk drink that could easily be fancied up with a mini-parasol and slice of pineapple. In fact, it almost belongs at a tiki bar, punched up with some rum and in the hand of someone in a skimpy bikini. The others ordered Gulab Jamun, which is a fried cheese ball soaked in syrup. It made it on to Gnome's "top three desserts" list. But Parks couldn't finish hers, saying "I just can't wrap my mind around this being cheese". It tastes like a pancake ball but the disconnect between the myth and the reality was too much for her. Or something.

If you like typically Indian dishes that basically exist so you can sponge the sauce up with your naan bread, then Jackson Diner will definitely fill that want for a good price (oh, and we also ordered the Naan Bread. They make great naan). But if you're looking for anything remotely upscale, cool, or different, then you should look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you want mild, cheap Indian comfort food conveniently steps from the train, then you can't go wrong.

Our four prix-fix meals (appetizer, entree, dessert), three beers (2 Kingfishers and a Bud light), and one soda, plus tax and tip clocked in at $132. But it was restaurant week, so expect it to be slightly higher for you. Jackson Diner is cash only.

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