The Best Places To Eat Pakistani Food In NYC

Where to go when you need some haleem, chapli kebab and other Pakistani specialities.
The Best Places To Eat Pakistani Food In NYC image

NYC has plentiful Pakistani food options, and some of the city’s juiciest kebabs, spiciest chaats, and creamiest kulfis can be found at counter-service spots in Jackson Heights, Murray Hill and the Little Pakistan area of Coney Island Ave. Most of these no-frills places, as well as a couple of fancier, sit-down restaurants on our list, offer dishes from across South Asia’s Muslim cuisines. To know what to order where, check out our guide to the best Pakistani food in New York.


photo credit: Kate Previte


Jackson Heights

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Al Naimat is the sort of place where we’d unironically stick a “Good Vibes Only” sign on the wall. Everything about the bustling dining room, with its chalkboard full of colorful illustrations, and sparkly glass case of sweets makes this place a good hang. Start with some crispy pakoras and chaat before moving on to a kebab roll, daal gosht, and falooda with kulfi for dessert. Adding to the fun is a fusion menu with things like chicken tikka tacos and naan burgers, which consist of two adorably small rounds of fluffy naan with a beef patty between them.

A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it counter spot in Jackson Heights, Kababish is a strong contender for our favorite kebabs and rolls in the area. Most of the space is taken up by the kitchen behind a counter, where an army of people pull naan out of the tandoor and heat up kebabs. The huge chicken kebab roll contains a tender chunk of meat, lettuce, and onions wrapped in a naan that easily soaks up all of the juices. There’s room for about two and half people inside, but they’ve got an outdoor dining shed with plenty of seating.

Haandi is a no-frills restaurant in Kips Bay frequented by cab drivers—the stamp of approval you should be looking for at any counter-service South Asian spot. It’s also great value: For $11, you can nab a mixed-meat combination platter with two chicken items like kabab and curry, one vegetable dish, rice, and naan. If they have tandoori chicken that day, get it. It’s not generally included in their combinations, but the bright red, succulent meat is worth a couple extra dollars. Just don’t plan on staying long. This is the sort of place where you eat a quick meal under fluttering fluorescent lights or grab some takeout to eat with your hands in front of the TV.

Of the many Pakistani restaurants on Coney Island Ave., Lahori Chili stays the busiest, thanks to its vast spread of fresh, hot food. Bring a group to share huge portions of smoky beef nihari topped with shaved ginger and lemon, and spicy karahi chicken (you can also order half portions). Or, stop by for a quick kabab and naan for a filling meal under $5. The all-red dining room is lined with chandeliers, adding a bit more eat-in ambience here than the other counter spots in the area. Lahori Chilli’s popularity can sometimes make this place chaotic, but feel free to linger anyway and try a few desserts.

Also on Coney Island Ave., Mashallah is more low-key than Lahori Chilli. The lamb chops are the speciality here, with masala-infused, charred meat that falls off the bone. They go well with a made-to-order naan that’s been given a proper shoe shine with some garlic butter. There’s plenty of seating and some flair in the form of colorful photos, but for the most part this is a casual spot where people sit around watching big TVs, eating tandoori chicken lunch specials, and drinking perfect cups of masala chai. Top your meal off with the homemade mango kulfi.

Restaurants open until 4am are a rare find in New York these days, so Phalia gets points for that alone. Full disclosure: we haven’t actually been here at 4am, but we've heard there’s a lively late-night scene most nights, and the food is just as fresh as we've found it at prime dinner time. Phalia also deserves praise for its ginger-heavy paya or goat trotters, and spicy charsi chicken karahi, which will keep us coming back at any hour. If you’re more of a morning person, come by at 10am for a breakfast of anda masala, buttery aloo paratha, and chai.

This counter-service restaurant in Jackson Heights is one of the city's best places to experience celebratory Pakistani food and culture. Dera’s known for their halwa poori, a perfect sweet and savory weekend brunch item. It contains two pieces of poori, savory chana, and sweet halwa. If you want a bite with meat, get the nihari: stewed beef shank with tons of gravy that’s served with lemon on a wide plate that we’ve been tempted to lick clean before. You can also order some freshly made naan instead of poori.

Calling this Pakistani counter-service place a neighborhood spot would be like calling a triple-jet jacuzzi just another bathtub. What sets BK Jani apart is The Jani, a burger made with a thick beef patty, spicy chutney, and one grilled tomato slice. The restaurant, which also has locations in Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan, also serves other excellent dishes like a fried chicken sandwich, flaky beef flatbreads, and grilled lamb chops covered in spices that taste so good you’ll consider leaving them on your face. There are a few seats inside the Williamsburg location, but the real clincher is an awesome backyard with plenty of picnic tables and festive murals where you’re welcome to BYOB.

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