FOOD: Dining in the Basement of a Temple at Flushing’s Ganesh Temple Canteen

The Flushing – Main Street stop at the end of the 7 line is normally associated with Chinatown, but walk past the malls, noodle shops, and food stalls on Main Street, down Kissena Boulevard, and onto the residential Holly Avenue, and… there’s a temple.  So what?

Little do most passersby know, in the basement of this temple is an Indian canteen where the food is delicious, filling, authentic, and cheap.  I’m down for a fancy pants three star Michelin restaurant any day, but my favorite places are those hole-in-the-wall, how-did-I-get-here, not-sure-if-they-even-have-a-name kind, and the Ganesh Temple Canteen is definitely that.

The food isn’t meant to impress anyone, because it doesn’t need to – the basement is cafeteria style, complete with a linoleum floor, folding chairs, styrofoam plates, and plastic utensils.  The menu is a simple printed list taped onto a whiteboard, with accompanying pictures above the counter in case you have no idea what you’re doing.

It’s South Indian food, so there’s no meat, but there’s no shortage of options here.  Prepared and served by an extremely friendly staff, you order at the counter and wait for your number to be called.  Our order – a masala dosa (kind of like a crepe filled with potatoes, onions, and spices), onion-chili uttapam (I guess I would describe this as the Indian version of pizza), idli (little savory spongy cakes), and vada (doughnut shaped fritter-like snacks), all washed down with mango lassi and coffee.

Everything comes with an ample amount of coconut chutney and sambar – I would say maybe even too much of it, I felt so guilty when my meal was over and there was a sea of chutney still left. The cost of everything, which was split between two people… a total of $18.50.

The best indicator of authentic Indian food?  We were the only non-Indians in the basement.  I would definitely come here if you are interested in sampling Indian food and trying some of everything – they have special menus on the weekends with which you can get a sample platter.

The number one complaint I hear from native Indians who come to New York City is that the food isn’t spicy enough.  The Temple Canteen’s food was perfectly spicy enough for me, and this is coming from the girl who spent a month in India and accidentally ate an entire fried green chile after mistaking it for a green bean (oops).  You’ll leave here happy and full, and that mile-long walk back to the subway will be much needed after your food coma.

Make sure you take a look at the temple before or after you leave the canteen – just don’t forget to take your shoes off before entering.  If you need any more reason to come here, Anthony Bourdain likes it, too.  Trust me, it’s worth the trek.

Ganesh Temple Canteen
45-57 Bowne Street (entrance on Holly Ave.)
Flushing, NY 11355