The Indian fast-food trend has been expanding rapidly, with spots like Thelewala and Indian Creperie having opened in the past few months. Now comes MasalaWala (179 Essex Street, 212-358-9300) on the Lower East Side, offering a fairly substantial menu of South Indian bites as well as larger meals. Always on the hunt for a good chaat, we popped in for a quick snack.
The space is small but tastefully decorated, and the staff exceptionally friendly, offering everyone who was waiting for a takeout order a small, complimentary mango lassi. We decided to get two chaats, the papri chat ($6) and the dahi puri ($6). The papri chat was described as flat crisps topped with yogurt, chickpeas, and mint, garnished with sev (thin crackers), chutney, and a showering of cilantro. It was heavily sauced and also came with chopped tomatoes and onions, making the whole dish akin to Indian nachos. In truth, the dish was a little under-seasoned, the tomatoes on the hard side, and everything kind of one-note. But that’s basically what most nachos are like, right? Sometimes you just want filling grub that tastes kinda fried with lots of textures.
Same for the dahi puri, except that the puri (hollow, puffed bread) were stuffed with a combo of potatoes and yogurt. Decent, but not good enough to bring us back or to switch our allegiance from Thelewala’s chaats. Though save for the pretty tasty Punjabi Grocery and Deli (114 East 1st Street, 212-533-3356) and the so-so Khushie Kitchen, there really isn’t much Indian food to speak of on the Lower East Side, so the MasalaWala has that going for it. We might come back to try the Nizami roll, or if we need some snacks come Super Bowl Sunday.