Something you ought to know about me, is that once i get a craving, there’s really no stopping me until it’s satisfied. And for several months now, i’ve had a rather strong one for a South Indian dosa. This craving had begun to be somewhat of a thorn in my side following several ‘mediocre’ dosa encounters of late in Manhattan.
On a recent hump day, with my craving thermometer at an all-time high, I impulsively decided to venture a little further afield in my quest. Over an hour later, (40 minute subway ride plus a 20 min walk), I found myself stood in the heart of a suburban neighbourhood in Flushing, Queens. I had arrived at Ganesh Temple, one of the first traditional Hindu temples in the USA.
My ultimate destination was the temple’s canteen. I followed the signs and headed curiously down the flight of stairs leading to the basement, oblivious to the fact that what I was about to experience was going to be a pure culinary treat.
The canteen is as ‘no-frills’ as you get. Very much like a basic school cafeteria, ambience is zero – but that doesn’t matter because you’re not going for that, it’s all about the food.
The temple’s canteen has been in operation for close to 25 years, serving an authentic South Indian ( and also pure vegetarian) menu .
The ordering process goes back to basics: approach the counter, place your order & pay, find an empty seat at one of the communal tables & listen out for your number to be called by the kitchen staff.
I ordered the butter masala dosa which arrived on a paper plate alongside some coconut chutney and a steaming bowl of sambar (a tamarind-based vegetable soup). Traditionally, a dosa is eaten with your hands, and each morsel dipped into the chutney & sambar – just remember to stock up on napkins, i must have gone through about 10!
Important to note, over the last few months, i’d been disappointed with both the sambar & potato masala elements of the dosa dishes i’d ordered in Manhattan (one of those being Saravana Bhavan which in fact has a rep for being one of the best dosas in the city). However at Ganesh Temple Canteen, each component was thoroughly satisfying – the crepe was crispy yet fluffy, the potato masala was nicely seasoned, flavourful and piping hot (i’ve had some which are barely at room temperature) & the sambar and chutney were both super tasty.
I can confidently declare that this was by far the best dosa i’ve had in NYC, and even on par with ones I’ve had in India. P.S. This was my first time eating a ‘butter’ masala dosa and it was heavenly! A dosa without that little knob of richness slowly melting away into it will never quite be the same for me anymore.
Not quite sure when i’d get a chance to return to the canteen, i also greedily ordered an onion & chilli uttapam (much to the surprise of the counter staff who were clearly wondering where i’d fit all this food).
Although not on the same level as the dosa, the uttapam was impressive, with my only negative comment being that it was a little thicker than the ones i’m used to. Nonetheless, it was really tasty and especially when dipped into the chutney-sambar combo.
Pricewise, the dosas range from $4-$7 and the uttapams are $6 which really is amazing value! I’m not sure you’ll find them cheaper than this outside of India.
Portion sizes are generous – i’d say one dosa is enough for one person if that’s all you’re eating – if you want to try a few things, it’s best to split one dosa between two. So overall, value for money is excellent at the canteen.
N.B. Being a weekday afternoon, I pretty much had the whole place to myself and my food was ready in minutes, but i have heard it’s packed all day on weekends and there’s a longer wait.
So there you have it – Ganesh Temple’s humble canteen was by far the best dosa i’ve had in New York and also in fact one of the most satisfying meals i’ve had in a while. I’m delighted to conclude that my dosa craving has finally well & truly been satisfied … for now at least.
Dips Bites: I absolutely love the unexpectedness of this temple canteen – the food is authentic, delicious and super cheap. If you’re craving dosa, this really is the place to go and if you’ve never eaten dosa before, it will surely set the bar very high. It’s not hard to see why Ganesh Temple Canteen is said to serve the best dosas in NYC. A godsend (literally) for anyone craving real South Indian food.
Open daily from 8.30AM to 9.30PM (Cash is best, since there’s a charge for cards)
143-09 Holly Avenue, Flushing, NY 11355