Murray Hill (NYC) now Curry Hill

Anyone who lives near or has frequented the area over the last ten years will have noticed the change. via Haandi, Curry Hill Restaurant, Is Popular Among Cabbies – NYTimes.com.

LATE at night, there are intervals when Urdu is the only language spoken in Haandi, a fanatically adored restaurant that may be the most popular after-hours spot in the area known as Curry Hill. It is as integral to some taxi drivers’ routines as the gas needed to refuel their cars.

Stacks of free newspapers like New York Awam and The Pakistan Post sit inside the entrance, on Lexington Avenue near 28th Street. Only chai, not coffee, is served. By day, business bustles with students and office workers. At night, Pakistani and Indian cabdrivers meet to change shifts with partners, one having dinner, the other breakfast. Others stop to wash in the restrooms before prayers, and sometimes, when the restaurant is not busy, they kneel to pray on the lower level.

The white walls have little decoration. The food counter, however, is a sea of spice and color: lamb shanks emerging from oily red lagoons, rich green saag, yellow biriyani, freshly buttered naan; hard-to-find dishes like paya — cow foot soup — lack any description on the wall menu.

Haandi’s two owners, Shabbir Sial and Artaza Ali, are childhood friends from Nizamabad, a small town in Pakistan. They started cooking in Curry Hill in the 1990s and returned to found Haandi in 2001; a devoted clientele of cabdrivers followed them there.

Two regulars, Tariq Mahmood and Shafqat Bhatti, had just capped the workday with a feast. Their taxis were parked outside. They nursed their bellies and spooned sugar into their chai.

“This is my brother,” Mr. Mahmood said, pointing to Mr. Bhatti. “Actually, he is my cousin, but we say ‘brother.’ It is our culture.”

And when “brothers” and “sisters” marry in most cultures it’s called incest, and it has serious health affects.

“The only culture here is money,” he joked, speaking of America.

As Joe Pesci said in Goodfellas, “Funny how?” It’s hard for Muslims to know about American culture when they hold Islamic conferences on all major U.S. holidays and choose to establish enclaves. Stop by Mahmood’s and make a few jokes about Pakistani and Islamic culture. See if you get any laughs. Then ask Mahmood why he came to America.

It was the second visit of his shift for Mr. Mahmood. He eats at Haandi almost every day, as Mr. Bhatti does; it has been a practice for years. “Ninety percent of cabdrivers are Pakistani,” he said. “The quality is best here. ”

An older man with a rich silver beard, who wore a traditional shalwar kameez, walked in. “Salaam aleikum,” he said to the server.

“There!” Mr. Mahmood said of the Muslim greeting. “You see? This is customary.”

Mr. Bhatti smiled and agreed: “This is customary.”

Mr. Khan, a cabbie from Lahore, Pakistan, has frequented Haandi for eight years, he said, and was a regular of the restaurants in Curry Hill, in Rose Hill, long before that.

“This was a dangerous area 30 years ago,” he recalled. “You didn’t want to come here. But it was one of the few places to eat Indian in the city. Cabdrivers even came then.”

The newcomer finished his food and left without thanking his benefactor. Mr. Khan paid no attention.

Also part of the culture apparently, as opposed to the culture of only money.

Just before the restaurant closed at 4 a.m., Mr. Khan prepared to head out into the predawn cold. “I come not just to eat,” he said, “but to pray, to use the bathroom. It’s my place.”

 


9 thoughts on “Murray Hill (NYC) now Curry Hill

  1. I’VE LIVED IN THE AREA FOR 3 DECADES. IT HAS LONG BEEN DOMINATED BY SUBCONTINENTAL CUISINE.

    AND IT’S GREAT.

    I WISH MORE OF THE RESTAURANTS WERE HINDU AND INDIAN BUT THEY ARE VERY GOOD.

  2. Murray Hill was over 90% Italian American at one time. Now – I see lots of anti American garbage on the side streets, some of the Muslim shopkeepers give you a dirty look when you buy a newspaper and yes, they renamed the area Curry Hill – they did that about 2 years ago.

    But those of us who are not Muslims do not use that label. For us, it is and always will be Murray Hill.

    • Actually, it was New Yorkers who nicknamed it Curry Hill, as a pun on Murray Hill, because of the plethora of Indian restaurants there, which are HINDU for the most part and serve pretty terrific food.

  3. Yes, indeed, I recall fondly staying in the apartment of a friend in the heart of what I’ll always know as Murray Hill – but then (35-40 years ago), it was (or seemed) primarily Armenian, and I had some wonderful meals at a couple nearby restaurants. Too bad the Pakis (at least first-generation ones) always seem to insulate themselves from their fellow Americans. In a way, they’ve never really left their village in the Old World, but don’t let them fool you about that “only money” crap – they’re as rapacious as the next guy!! They’ve brought the “culture” of the bazaar (haggling) with them and would rob you in a New York minute for 5c! Sometimes that’s OK, but mostly it’s totally annoying for those of us not used to that mentality (“culture” is too refined a word for some of them!).

  4. sometimes there is too much curry in the world;sometimes there is not.The spice of mental illness known as religion is the really bad one.RELIGION IS THE ARSENIC OF THE PEOPLE;JUST ASK JIM JONES;PRAYING TO SAINTS IS THE SAME AS A QUIJA BOARD;ITS CONTACTING THE DEAD.Islam does the same thing by contacting a dead angel when it requires prayers.Only the religion of truth rightiousness (not the self variety),and true love can be considered positive and good for all;it contains no BEAST.

  5. Give me a break. They speak Chinese all over Chinatown, where the signs are even in Chinese. Go to any of the Aussie restaurants in NYC, and everyone has an Australian accent. Shocking. Horrid. It’s the beginning of a mass takeover by koalas!

    There are real dangers involving creeping sharia in America. This is not one of them, and you dilute the seriousness of your message by wasting time on things like this.

  6. Only people who do not have a culture of their own think it is so wounderful foreigners come here to open up Restaurants that have to serve such open minded Liberal slobs. Most of the secular jews and wasps Who love the idea of a Multicultural nation would never have been served in A Traditional American Restaurant in the Days of Leaver it Beaver or Father Knows best!

  7. Pingback: Links to Muslim Enclaves and Mosques across America. : :: United Patriots of America ::

If sharia law continues spreading, you'll have less and less freedom of speech - so speak while you can!

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