Posted by: Orlick | December 18, 2008

Window Shopping the Indian Buffets in JH

Just a day in the life…
Walking around Little India, here is a picture diary of the Indian etc buffets in Jackson Heights….
Let’s first create a rating system. I want to rate each of these based on their curb appeal looking through their window and signs, and also based on the actual food of the buffet. Should we do letter grades? stars? hhmmm, something funny and related like… dosas? Well, my first instinct was letter grades, and since that is usually right, let’s be boring and do it like grade school. Let’s start with the figurehead:

Jackson Diner
3747 74th St
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
(718) 672-1232

Jackson Diner

Jackson Diner


Jackson Diner Food Closeup

Jackson Diner Food Closeup

Jackson Diner is the obvious choice for new recruits to the Jackson Heights Indian buffet scene. Everyone’s heard of it. It’s probably the biggest draw for tourists. The buffet set-up is clearly for the window shoppers, with the food closely against the window and handwritten signs more visible to the passerbys than the people actually eating the food. If you were on the buffet line, you would have to slouch over to see what you are eating to see those signs. The food looks okay, those steam tables aren’t that pretty at all.
As for the food, it’s okay. They have a dosa station where they make them fresh in front of you – This is a draw to most people but really aren’t my thing.
Window Grade: B
Food Grade: B-

Delhi palace
3733 74th St
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
(718) 507-0666

Delhi Palace

Delhi Palace

The buffet is all the way in the back, tucked underneath some stairs. Window shoppers can’t even see what they have to offer. Luckily, they put a huge sign in the window which doesn’t even let you notice the degree of drab it has. To the right of the sign is a shiny object which does look pretty.

As for the food, it’s alright. Slightly better cooked than Jackson Diner, and some good vegetarian options.

Window Grade: D+
Food Grade: B

Mehfil
76-05 37th Ave
New York, NY 11372
(718) 429-3297

Mehfil Sign

Mehfil Sign


Mehfil Offering

Mehfil Offering

Mehfil is the newest buffet maker in the area. They have a chalked-up sign on the sidewalk which boasts an $8.50 price and a written sample of their large breadth of offerings. Also on a sign is a small version of their menu, which while mostly illegible it still looks impressive . Looking in you see a grand presentation of tandoori chicken – the guilded plate, the white tablecloth – and the clean steam tables, plus a dessert station. You are also likely to see the manager sifting through the food and waiting for people to enter. Sometimes this is endearing, sometimes it’s creepy.

The food is refreshing. This is the only buffet I’ve seen fish tikka offered. The menu seems to change frequently, possibly due to a sense of variety or ADD. Some things can be hit or miss, but that’s okay, because the variety prevents me from comparing it against anything. I like it, but things do strike me as ODD here.

Window Grade: A-
Food Grade: B+

Indian Taj
3723 74th St
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
(718) 651-4187

Indian Taj

Indian Taj

This is the prettiest window shopping experience on 74th St. Shiny, bright serving bowls and in the middle either tandoori or chilli chicken – both look great. The signs for each dish are against the window, but are just as readable to diners. Large permanent signs on the outside. They have a great presentation going.

The food is not bad at all. Doesn’t quite live up to the presentation, but that’s a lot to live up to. Chilli chicken, naan, and samosas were standouts for me.

Window Grade: A
Food Grade: B

Al Naimat Restaurant & Sweets
3703 74th St
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
(718) 476-1100

Al Naimit

Al Naimit


Banner outside the door

Banner outside the door

Meager advertisements for their surprisingly great buffet. Looking straight on, there is little indication there lies a buffet inside. Sometimes they put up a sign. There is a sign on the outside of the door though, in huge lettering. More obvious for those walking southwards.

This is my favorite non-vegetarian buffet in the area. The food doesn’t look very special, but it fits comfortably in my mouth. They offer biryani rice – which is something I don’t know if any other buffet does. And it’s great. They also offer a sweet or two from their front counter which they seem to be known for.

Window Grade: D-
Food Grade: A-

Shangri La
74-15 Roosevelt Ave
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
(718) 424-8900

Shangri La - Nothing to see here.

Shangri La - Nothing to see here.


They once had good window shopping. Then the fed started cracking down on them, shutting them down for a few days, and now there is a big curtain up. You can still see in from the side, but not much. Their location is the best – right on Roosevelt Ave, and goes straight through to the other side of the building on 37th Rd.

The food is surprisingly good. Lots of flavoring. Preferred by many of the in-the-know locals. Some of the dishes I just don’t get, but I respect it.

Window Grade: D
Food Grade: B

Raja Sweets & Fast Food
7231 37th Ave
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
(718) 424-1850

Raja Sweets - No Buffet Indicators

Raja Sweets - No Buffet Indicators

Raja has very little indication it is a buffet. It might not even be a buffet, but it is AYCE (all you can eat). The only indication is a sign that says, “Lunch 5.99”. They have about 6 dishes at a time and you can go up for more as much as you like. It is completely vegetarian, and while that could turn me off, this place does it well. The cooks are friendly, very grandmotherly type feel. Top 1 or 2 buffet in Jackson Heights in my opinion.

Window Grade: D-
Food Grade: A

So, my favorite two had little to no signs advertising their buffets. Some of the most glitzy in the depths of Little India 74th St are to me more bark than bite. While none are crap, there are 2 levels, with Al Naimit and Raja Sweets being higher and Mehfil and possibly Shangri La straddling the levels. And if your friend takes you to Jackson Diner, don’t complain, it’s not bad. Just keep learning and suggest an alternative if they want to go back a second time.

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Responses

  1. you missed nanking! my favorite!

  2. nanking is only on the weekends. I will have to explore more this weekend possibly. There is nanking, thikali, and himalayan yak weekend only. I may have to make an addition.

  3. Great summary – thanks. Now I have a strong argument to convince my visiting friends to try buffets other than JD.

  4. Did you miss Maharaja Sweets? There’s also a vegetarian buffet at the back; I believe lunchtime prices are $7.50.

  5. I didn’t even know they had a buffet there! No signage whatsoever. Thanks YL. I will have to hit it up.

  6. Maharaja’s buffet was mentioned in more than one thread of the Jackson Heights Life board. See for example http://www.jacksonheightslife.com/community/index.php?topic=1643 . Most Indian vegetarian protein sources are a too carbohydrate-heavy for me (aloo, chana, dal etc.), so it’s not worth my time or money to have nothing but panir, but I did really like their food.


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