When you think late night bites in Manhattan, certain morsels may come to mind. For the non-foodie, a good slice of New York pizza pie. For those who indulge in heavy drinking, maybe some spicy Buffalo wings with your last pint while catching the end of a game. For the foodies and chefs that inhabit Gotham, they may go for the after-work feast and beverage to talk about the nights most colorful customers; possibly Blue Ribbon Sushi, Brinkley's, Serafina, or other culinarian late night haunts. Up until now, New York taxi drivers had a different secret locale: Five Star Diner. But this place is thriving and now taxi drivers are just a few of the clientele at this Punjabi diner.
A question I asked, like many others, “Is it a diner, buffet, or a banquet?” One could be confused as the name reads “5 Star Diner,” “5 Star Banquet,” or “Punjabi Diner.”
The owner, Mr. Binder, puts together traditional Indian flavors in a surprisingly lavish interior, somewhat like a wedding banquet hall, colorful, large, and complete with a stage and dance floor (the exterior is not inviting). The location is obscure, and somewhat remote, but the food is superior and cheaper than any Indian in the big city. A visit to 5 Star is one to be remembered, after all, how can 10,000 cab drivers be wrong? Located under the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City, 5 Star serves breakfast, an all you can eat lunch buffet Monday through Saturday (11 a.m. to 4 p.m. $8.99), dinner, and a late night feast.
Like the Bollywood films that are streamed onto screens late into the night, all the Northern Indian stars are here, starting with crispy garlic naan ($2.50, the best I’ve had). Try the onion kulcha ($2.50) bread stuffed with onions and ginger. A bronzed and inviting chicken tandoori ($4.99) came up a little dry and disappointing, on the contrary the chicken tikka masala ($8.99) was rich, creamy, and sweet — something I will go back for again and again. A chopped mound of Sag Paneer ($6.95) studded with cubes of cheese and topped with slices of jalapeños is a hit too. There’s also the malai kofta ($7.99), a Northern Indian curry with vegetable balls fried and dunked into a creamy bath of curry.
A late night delight of Indian flavor awaits at this obscure yet warmly friendly location.