If you’re looking for delicious authentic Indian food, you can head to the Jackson Diner in Jackson Heights, New York, a culinary hub for a wide range of Indian cuisine coming from the farms of Northern India to the waterfront to the South. Founded in 1980, the Jackson Diner aims to “bring India to Jackson Heights.” Although Latinos, including as Argentineans, Columbians, Mexicans, and Ecuadorians, make up the largest ethnic groupsin Jackson Heights, it has a large Indian population as well, with the majority of Indians conglomerated along 74th Street between Roosevelt Avenue and 37th Avenue, in the heart of Jackson Heights. This region is known as “Little India,” and it is a vibrant Southeast Asian commercial center, with Sari shops, jewelry stores, grocery stores, and restaurants up and down. It is actually on 37-47 74th Street that the Jackson Diner is located, and what better place for an Indian diner than Little India?
Though relatively unknown for a long time, the Jackson Diner has gained recognition and their prices have increased over the years. It serves traditional Indian food modified to suit American tastes. For example, the food is less spicy, which makes it well suited to those who are new to Indian food or for those who don’t enjoy spicy foods very much. The inside of the diner has an open and airy feel, with
high ceilings and an open dining area, and a bar is situated in the back of the restaurant, near the kitchen. Once seated, water and wafer like bread is served. The menu offers a wide range of Indian foods. Appetizer breads include poori, a golden fried unleavened bread served in a hot hallowed ball, and nan, a soft, unleavened doughy bread. Poori is a lighter bread and goes well with soup and beer, while nan is a heavier bread and is better suited for dipping in sauces of the entrees.
The Jackson Diner menu includes a wide variety of chicken, lamb, goat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. An example of a chicken dish is the Tandoori Chicken, chicken marinated in yogurt with mild spices. With the Lamb Korma, lamb is cut into cubes and cooked in a cream sauce. The Goat Curry is tender strips of goat served with curry. Seafoods are exclusively shrimp, and examples of vegetarian meals is Shag Paneer, spinach and potatoes, and Bhindi Masala, okra, tomatoes, and onions. The desert menu includes Malai Kulfi, an Indian ice cream, as well as mango or pistachio ice cream, Rasmali, cottage cheese patties in creamy condensed milk sauce, Gulab Jamun, golden fried cheese balls soaked in honey syrup, Kheer, creamy rice pudding with raisins and dried fruit, and pineapple, mango, or coconut fruit-filled sorbet.
Jackson Heights, with its diversity in both its people and the many ethnic shops and restaurants, adds to Queens’ ethnic diversity in both food and culture. The Jackson Diner and the other restaurants and stores in the Little India area remind Indian immigrants of their homeland, allow the immigrants’ children to connect with their culture, and provide the opportunity for non-Indians to experience a small taste of the richness of Indian culture.