The Early Word: Thelewala


MacDougal Street has seen a bunch of new cheap eats recently, first with Saigon Shack and then Artichoke Pizza and, most recently, Macaroni Macaroni. Now comes Thelewala, a tiny cubby selling Indian street foods. A bit of a gamble since Kati Roll Company is located across the street and offers similar goods, so obviously we had to check out the new kid on the block.

A few stairs lead to the main ordering/dining area, with about six stools and an L-shaped counter. The décor is modern and tasteful, with a sort of rustic modern South Asian vibe. Still, though, if you’re in a big group, you might want to get the food to-go.

Several chaats, or street snacks, are available, and we opted for the bhel pori ($5), a large portion of puffed rice, red onions, flaked chickpeas, and two kinds of chutney. Each mouthful bursts with crunch and spice — almost like eating savory breakfast cereal, amped up with a lashing of chiles and onion. You won’t want to make out with anyone after eating it, but we give this dish a hearty thumbs-up.

We also ordered the aloo dum ($7), basically a mild potato curry, prepared Calcutta-style, and served with two parathas. The potatoes were tender and well-sauced — a carbolicious meal if you’re looking for some energy.

Finally, we sampled the chicken malai roll ($4.50), which was actually fairly similar to what you can find at Kati Roll Company, though here the chicken is farm-raised and antibiotic- and hormone-free. The roll was well-flavored, stuffed with spiced chicken and red onions, though a little bit boring.

And to wash everything down, we had a cup of milky masala chai ($1), well-spiced but not sweet.

All in all, we were quite pleased with Thelewala and will definitely return, especially to sample the rest of the chaatwala menu, which also included phucka, jaal moori, and peanut masala. For a glimpse at the full menu, click here.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 25, 2011

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