Biryani Cart NYC – Lovely Biryani, Lousy Kati Roll

(Recommended by SI reader Satya)

After watching Akshay Kumar’s latest nightmare a.k.a De Dana Dan the other day, we were in desperate need of some cheering and comforting.

So after the crappy movie ended, we walked up a few blocks from AMC Empire 25 on 42nd St to the latest New York City landmark – Biryani Cart, at the intersection of 46th St & 6th Ave in Midtown Manhattan (near Nandita Khanna’s rathole Utsav).

Biryani Cart – A Streetside Affair

The Biryani Cart is not a regular NYC sit-down Indian restaurant but a roadside food cart that has found favor with many people working in Midtown as well as Times Square tourists.

It was around 1.45PM, there was a steady drizzle and the sidewalks were crowded with office-goers heading home early for Thanksgiving.

The light rain notwithstanding, there were about 8 or 9 people waiting at the Biryani Cart for their spice-fix.

Biryani Cart

The cart’s appeal and draw has been the quality of its food, spread mostly by word of mouth and blogs like this.

As we were looking at the menu painted on the frontside of the cart, we overheard a desi specifying ‘spicy’ to his order. Seeing some goras (who usually play safe and order their Indian food ‘mild’) standing nearby, we too added the spicy suffix to our order.

We were famished and ordered Vegetable Biryani, Chicken Biryani and Vegetable Kati Roll.

But the cart was already out of Chicken Biryani!


So in place of the Chicken Biryani we settled for Chicken Tikka, another favorite at the cart.

After placing the order, we patiently waited and dutifully ogled at the gora girls passing by in their tight T-shirts and tighter jeans. πŸ˜‰

Behind and around us, we heard desis speaking Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and English.

To yours truly, the desis around us looked like the H1B/L1 IT coolies working in Midtown.

It took about 5-6 minutes to get our Styrofoam food boxes plus napkins and forks.

Since we don’t work anywhere nearby, we quickly headed over to the nearby Bryant Park (about five-minutes walk from the Biryani Cart at a brisk trot) outside the New York Public Library and opened our boxes. There are chairs, tables and even convenient trash cans at the park.

With mucho gusto, we dug into our food.

Lovely Vegetable Biryani

The Vegetable Biryani ($6) was a yummelicious delight.

Hot, spicy and tasty, our box of Vegetable Biryani was a treat. For some reason, our thoughts drifted to our favorite Indian actress Tabu at that time.

Sure, Tabu looks hot and spicy but we confess that we have no idea if she’s as tasty as the Biryani. πŸ˜‰ Bet she is. Bet she is!

Besides a chilli sauce on top of the rice, our Vegetable Biryani included carrot, beans and onion.

Biryani Cart Vegetable Biryani

Our order of Veg Biryani also came with a small slice of Garlic Bread and Lettuce Salad.

No complaints, folks. None at all.

All thoughts of that nightmare De Dana Dan vanished and we were in a reverie about Tabu!

But ours is an appetite not easily satiated. So we opened our Chicken Tikka box.

Chicken Tikka – Nirvana Redux

Oh, boy.

Did we hit paydirt a second time?

Sure we did with our Chicken Tikka ($6).

The Gods must have been pleased with us. Or it must be our good Karma.

Biryani Cart NYC Chicken Tikka Masala

Our Chicken Tikka box contained about 10 pieces of Chicken Tikka with Basmati Rice covered in an orange-colored gravy.

As requested, it was spicy. There were onion and green bell pepper pieces sprinkled with the rice and some Lettuce Salad as well.

Simply divine, guys.

As we were salivating over our food and fantasizing over our inamorata Tabu, little did we realize that nemesis was lurking close by.

Kati Roll – A Disgrace

The Biryani Cart fellas need to have their cojones chopped off for delivering one of the worst Kati Rolls of our life.

Biryani Cart NYC Kati Roll

We tell ya, a mighty big letdown after the delicious Vegetable Biryani and Chicken Tikka.

We normally don’t like to waste or throw out food.

But for once we just couldn’t complete the Vegetable Kati Rolls ($6).

With a flavorless vegetable stuffing in a partially-cooked flat bread, the Biryani Cart’s Vegetable Kati Roll was not merely unpalatable but inedible (do you schmucks know the difference between unpalatable and inedible).

The vegetables inside the roll had an awful Burger King Veggie Burger taste. Overall, it was yuck!

Heaving the Kati Roll into the nearby trash-bin, cursing the Biryani Cart fellas and wearing a sullen look we quickly clambered up the steps of the New York Public Library in pursuit of that will o’ the wisp – knowledge.

As we plonked our derriere in the uncomfortable chairs of the NYPL we promised ourselves that we’d return to the Biryani Cart anon – for the Biryani and Chicken Tikka.

What did Wordsworth write about his meal at Biryani Cart:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be hungry at the Biryani Cart was very heaven!

BTW, did Wordsworth really have a meal at the Biryani Cart and did he really write the above line. πŸ˜‰

13 Responses to "Biryani Cart NYC – Lovely Biryani, Lousy Kati Roll"

  1. gnair91   December 1, 2009 at 5:28 am

    cost much or reasonable ? Responds:

    Sex dollars each.

    A little costly for this cheapo desi. πŸ˜‰

    It should be no more than $4.50 or maximum $5 each.

  2. Aswin_Kini   December 1, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be hungry at the Biryani Cart was very heaven!

    Nice words πŸ™‚ Responds:

    A bastardized version of Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1805).

  3. gnair91   December 1, 2009 at 10:04 am

    id like a sex dollar…better correct that one…( refer above ) Responds:

    Isn’t sex the spelling for 6? πŸ˜‰

  4. gk   December 1, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    May be that ‘sex’$ is for tabulicious biryani…thats cheap !! Responds:

    1. Tabulicious sounds nice.

    We swear that’s what we’re gonna use in future for anything hot and spicy.

    Our Tabu is a priceless Tabby. πŸ˜‰

    2. Back in the ol’ days, we used to have idlis around midnight at the cart on Mount Road (close to the Wallajah Rd intersection) in Chennai. Nice ones too.

    Not sure if they still have midnight food carts on Anna Salai in Chennai these days.

  5. satya   December 1, 2009 at 1:19 pm


    Even I always eat biryani in Bryant Park. Eating biryani and watching tabulicious goris!! simply heaven πŸ™‚ .

    Long ago, I remember eating delicious idlis and dosas around midnight at road side carts in front of brilliant tutorials (Masilamani Street, off the Pondy Bazaar) Responds:

    You write: Even I always eat biryani in Bryant Park. eating biryani and watching tabulicious goris!! simply heaven

    See, great desis eat and ogle alike. πŸ˜‰

  6. TrulySiva   December 1, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Hey was that you standing in Q #2? Like a typical desi πŸ™‚

    FYI on your GK about Chennai – No more carts (Kayendhi Bhavan) in Mount Roads.

    Have you ever tried in Brilliant Tutorials rd, T.Nagar? Best place for tiffins

    You know what? I had biriyani out in that cart and didn’t like it – too much masala!!. So daily having Sambar and Rasam from house – You can term me as cheap GC Coolie Responds:

    1. You write: Hey was that you standing in Q #2? Like a typical desi πŸ™‚

    No, the gora is us. πŸ˜‰ Ha ha ha.

    2. You write: You know what? I had biriyani out in that cart and didn’t like it – too much masala

    Are you sure it was the same cart?

    Too many South Asian food carts in Midtown Manhattan these days. There’s one on 45th St and 6th Ave too…Kwik something. All over the place these days.

    Or maybe you are trying hard to convince yourself so that you can force yourself to eat that thair-sadam, mair-sadam more-sadam, sambar-sadam et al that maami packs for you in a brown bag everyday. πŸ˜‰

    3. You write: Have you ever tried in Brilliant Tutorials rd, T.Nagar? Best place for tiffins

    No. Ages since we went to Chennai.

  7. elnino.aurora   December 1, 2009 at 6:25 pm


    If you ever go to Chennai sometime soon, check out the Kaiyendhi Bhavan on Masilamani St opposite Brilliant Tutorials.. (as the user above has commented). Plain awesome food. I would rate Murugan Idly Shop the best idly-vada-sambar-pongal restaurant though. But this kaiyendhi bhavan in pondy bazar is just too good. Must eat for a foodie.

    BTW, was out to a restaurant called Indian Palace near Austin. ABSOLUTELY TRASHY food and service (13$ down the drain!). Is there any way I can report these guys? Apparently we had to go to a restaurant called India Palace, and the screwed up GPS took us to this location which sent our taste buds for a toss. All this after a whole day of shop-to-death frenzy on Black Friday πŸ™ Responds:

    1. You write: If you ever go to Chennai sometime soon,

    That me boy will happen only when we are carried back into the city with our feet foremost in the not too distant future.

    2. The GPS is notoriously unreliable when it comes to finding points of Indian interest in the U.S. We use it only for point-to-point driving directions, never for points of interest preferring to use the Internet on the phone instead and then entering the address manually on the GPS.

    3. Regarding your bad dining experience, it’s just your bad Karma. πŸ™

    We’ve suffered a million times at so-called Indian restaurants in NJ, NY, PA, VA, DC, CA, DE, LA, NV et al.

  8. gk   December 3, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Murugan Idly Shop is fine but going by indian economy,paying VAT for ‘mulagai podi’ is outrageous… Responds:

    1. Aha, you have VAT in India too now.

    The last time we paid VAT was in one of the European countries many years back where like any dutiful, cheapo desi we got a refund at the airport. πŸ˜‰

    2. Surprisingly, we haven’t come across any other South Indian food carts in NYC other than our Dosa-man Thiru (from Sri Lanka).

    Nor are there any desi sweets carts in NYC. Now, isn’t that depressing considering Indian sweets are so non pareil.

    BTW, the Biryani cart fella Miru is a Bangladeshi.

  9. Vetti Jijaji   December 3, 2009 at 11:11 am

    oh thanks for the VAT refund info.. didn’t know such a thing existed.. I am not so cheap after all.. Responds:

    We missed out on a couple of occasions but were careful after we got to know of it!


    In profound depression – we paid our first $1.02 to RedBox after all these freebie-months. Cursing ourselves for returning Benjamin Button 18 minutes late. It’s all that swine Brad Pitt’s fault. πŸ™

  10. gk   December 3, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Interesting story about thiru…btw whats a green card lottery ? Responds:

    The Green Card lottery is for countries that don’t send as many immigrants here. Supposed to make our melting pot more diverse.

    No, Indians are not eligible (Thank God). πŸ˜‰

    Eligible countries include Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many of the African countries.

    As best as we understand the process, applicants are selected on a lottery basis. Hence the name Green Card Lottery.

  11. Aswin_Kini   December 3, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Murugan Idli Kadai is a bit costly, but not as costly as Saravana Bhavan!

    For good food in Chennai, I recommend that people rather try out lesser known restaurants like Vasantha Vihar, Adyar Ananda Bhavan. Sangeetha is good, but only in select places like Guindy and Mylapore, their food is a bit costly. Saravana is crap, their food costs a fortune, but some of the items are too less in quantity and sometimes, not upto the mark.

    When I used to live in Triplicane(Thiruvallikkeni), I always hear about people praising the delicious SAMBAR IDLI or IDLI-SAMBAR as they call it in RATNA CAFE. When I dropped in to taste, I realized that the IDLI-SAMBAR they offered was one of the best in Chennai.

    Two Idlis floating like an Island in Sambar – Delicious.

    Too Bad, the Saravana’s and Sangeetha’s don’t have niche items like this. Responds:

    Drooling. Salivating. OK, this weekend we’re heading on an Idli-pedition.
    Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan’s Raghu Vamsa Sudhambudhi playing in background.

  12. Aswin_Kini   December 3, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    How about the traditional IDLI-VADA, Combo or perhaps PONGAL VADA with some fresh Coconut/Onion Chutney? πŸ˜‰

    Also, Poori Masala won’t do you any harm either πŸ˜€ Responds:

    Ayyo, Kadavule. You are killing us. Been eons since we had nice Tamil Nadu Boori Masala.

    OK, let’s at least go out and pick up our latest addiction – Chick-fil-A’s Peppermint Chocolate Chip Shake. Guess, Chick-fil-A has yet to make it to Mera Bharat Mahaan.

  13. Bhagat_Singh   December 3, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Went here today with high hopes but was let down big time. There was no gravy with chicken tikka so the food was very dry :(. The chicken was also very dry. Will give it one more shot next week. Responds:

    1. Too bad.

    Some of the other SI readers seemed to find the place ‘tabulicious’ as did we.

    Yes, the Chicken Tikka is of the dry variety not the floating in that bland gravy kind you get at most Indian restaurants in NYC but there’s some kind of sauce/gravy spread over the rice.

    Hope you specified ‘spicy’ to your order.

    2. Or maybe you wore your turban with your Kirpan showing and that scared the hell out of Miru (owner) and he messed up your order. πŸ˜‰

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