Day Tripping: Maharaja Cafe
I like an upscale meal as much as the next girl, but I'm most comfortable in places that are unpretentious. I prefer blue-collar and industrial towns over moneyed suburbs, a street festival to the opera, and waterside lobster shacks instead of a three-figure dinner bill. Mainly it's about the food. If it's good, I'm there.
Maharaja Indian Cafe on East 45th Street is a classic "hole in the wall," where it's come as you are and eat with plastic forks. For $10 I got the "meat and vegetable combo": Chicken Tikka Masala, one of the most palate-pleasing dishes, particularly for newcomers to Indian food, basmati rice, spinach paneer, a huge piece of naan, and all-you-can-eat papadam (a lentil wafer that's great with tamarind or other sauce). And a soft drink, too. If you're looking for dietetic, keep walking! This is comfort food.
New Yorkers used to have to go to the East Village to get Indian food. But here in midtown, the vittles were good, the counter service was welcoming, and the ambient Indian music made me glad that decent, inexpensive Indian food is all over the city now.
Maharaja Restaurant & Cafe
133 East 45th Street
New York, NY