Arts and Entertainment

Yes, You Can Still Get Cheap *ss Lunch Near Stuy

Cheap *ss Lunch is still out there if you're willing to find it—look no further than the generous portions and smoldering spices of the yellow halal cart.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cover Image
By Reya Miller

Inflation sucks. Back in the fabled days of the "pre-pandemic" era, you could get a styrofoam tray overflowing with dry yellow rice, suspicious meat fragments, and scraps of wilted lettuce all smothered in "white sauce" for only a fiver. Oh, and most of the guys were nice enough to give you a free bottle of water if you flashed your student ID. But that was then, and this is now, and you won't get much more than a snack if you aren't willing to shill out at least seven bucks. The name "Cheap *ss Lunch" doesn't really have the same ring to it anymore.

But I'm determined. I strongly believe that you should still be able to get a satisfying, easy lunch in the mere forty minutes we get to leave our whiteboard-paneled cages. We're just going to have to raise that "Cheap" bar a little bit, to a tenner.

Luckily, one group of vendors which has survived the god-knows-how-many months of this plague are every Stuyvesant student’s favorites, the Halal Carts. I don't feel it necessary to review everyone's friend by the McDonalds, and I've previously gone over some of the more interesting offerings by the likes of the Green Indian cart and Cuisine K.

That leaves the subject of today's article, "Bismilla Indian Biryani House," the bright yellow cart reminiscent of a taxi in front of Whole Foods. It occupies a bit of a weird niche in the neighborhood food ecosystem––not quite cheap nor unique enough to be noteworthy. Their options include the obligatory chicken or lamb over rice and gyros, but as their name suggests they also offer Indian dishes like Kati rolls and Chicken Tikka.

The cart is run by an easygoing baseball-capped fellow who will let you take a bottle of water or soda from the ice bags beneath his window for free with any platter, once a given but now a noteworthy luxury. The Curry (you can only get chicken, ignore the menu) is $7, and the Chicken Tikka is $8. The food comes nestled in one of those two-piece black and clear plastic containers instead of styrofoam, so you can pretend you're actually going to recycle. Sauce application is liberal here, so be forewarned—there will be a large white and red slick all over the yellow rice and chunks of meat, even reaching the drab lettuce, tomato bits, and half of a boiled egg.

Upon opening the container, there is a muted but still fiery aroma, calling tastebuds forward to prepare for the feast that will follow. Common to both options is rice, which is dry toward the top and moist toward the bottom, uniformly soft as it takes in the flavors of the rest of the dish. The salad is surprisingly adequate, especially with its white sauce coating, providing a refreshing counterpoint to the spicy meat. The egg is almost rubbery but sweet and silky on the tongue, making for a nice addition to the overall experience.

The chicken curry comes garnished with crisp crumbles of garlic, and its peppery taste provokes a haze on your tongue. The Chicken Tikka is a dollar more but furnishes much more meat, with bright orange chunks bringing a distinct Tikka flavor but not hitting you over the head with it either. Both options are filling, especially with all of the rice, but the curry feels a bit lacking in the meat department once you're halfway through, as the balance of remaining bites shifts decidedly toward rice and lettuce.

This is not the greatest cart to ever grace the streets of New York, or even Tribeca. While your $7 will go farther at this cart than most others, Cuisine K and the Green Indian cart––both just down the block––still stand secure in their positions as the best halal in the area. Yet, by the time you've finished this ample meal, all the elements will have descended into a pleasing mishmash of warm spices and varying textures, embracing your tastebuds, filling your stomach, and confirming that your money, and more importantly your time, has been well spent.


Leave the bridge, walk a block down to the McDonalds, and turn right. Walk two blocks and the cart will be there, in all its radioactive yellow glory, outside of Whole Foods.