We think we have found the best Indian food in NYC – in the basement of a Hindu temple. The Ganesh Temple Canteen (45-57 Bowne St, Flushing, NY 11355) is tucked into a quiet, residential neighborhood of Queens – you wouldn’t know the temple was there until you drive right up to it and see the ornate architecture up close. In order to reach the canteen, you descend the stairs to the basement, where you are greeted with a vast, simple cafeteria, complete with linoleum floor and buffet line. But don’t let the humble presentation fool you! At almost any part of the day, the cafeteria will be packed with worshipers and non-affiliated neighborhood folks alike. The canteen has been churning out food since 1998, and attracts crowds a all times, even at breakfast.
The focus of the canteen is vegetarian South Indian dishes, in particular: dosas. The vast range of dosas, thin wheat crepes, come with a variety of fillings from spicy potatoes, to lentils and chilis, to paneer cheese. And you’ll be pretty pleased about the prices, too (nothing is over $7). You wait in line to place your order, and while in line you can check out at the menu on a suspended flat-screen TV and consult with the dosa experts in line. There are also a range of appetizers like iddli (steamed rice cake) and vada (savory fried dough) to go with your dosas, as well as a selection of sweets and mango lassis. There are also a few additional temptations while waiting: little boxes of sweet and savory snacks for sale to take away. Looking around the room, you will notice some hints that the restaurant is attached to a Hindu temple, including the prominent statue of Ganesha.
We ordered a side of tamarind rice, two masala dosas and a Pondicherry dosa. After no more than 10 minutes, our food came out, fresh off the griddle. Dosas are usually pretty generous in size, and these were no exception. The dosas themselves were butter and flaky, and were completely packed with delicious vegetarian fillings. The potato filling of the masala dosas were perfectly spiced – just the right amount of heat. The Pondicherry dosa was also filled with green chilis and onions, which added an extra kick. We also appreciated the soupy veggie sambar and coconut-yogurt sauce that came alongside. We washed everything down with a mango lassi (which is a bargain at $2 – you may want a second one).The Ganesh Temple Canteen may be a little out of the way for most New York visitors, but it is definitely worth the trip for the great hospitality and the tasty dosas. This is some of the best Indian food we have ever had, and definitely the best we have had in NYC. Plus, you’ll get a huge amount of food for the price! If you stop by, don’t forget to indulge in a mango lassi (or two).