The term "diner" usually evokes thoughts of breakfast at midnight and dense menus of Dickensian length. But at the Jackson Diner in the heart of Jackson Heights in Queens, crowds assemble for some of the city's best North Indian food. In the heart of the borough's "little India," a large and casual banquet room with deep purple paper placemats is the go-to spot for a reasonably-priced unlimited lunch buffet and Indian food hankerings of all kinds.
Tandoori chicken, marinated in yogurt and spices, is notably tender and arrives on a bed of sizzling onions with a wedge of lemon at its side. The murg korma – a cashew nut curry with broiled chicken – was creamy with hints of sweetness and spice. All entrees come with a side of dal, a refreshing side of cucumber and yogurt raita, and basmati rice garnished with fresh peas.
Steaming hot naan, glistening with butter, is well worth the extra $2.50 to soak up curry sauce; garlic naan and a variety of other traditional Indian breads are also available. There are copious options for vegetarians (and vegans) with more than a dozen vegetable-based entrees on the menu, but for the most comprehensive sampling, go in big groups and order generously.
Jackson Diner is located at 37-47 74th Street in Jackson Heights. 718-672-1232. Open daily for lunch and dinner.