Cheap Eats

Surpassing the sameness of Sixth Street.

Sixth Street already had one sturdy anchor in Haveli, near the corner of Second Avenue, when Banjara, an atypically spacious and relatively snazzy new spot, opened last December to shore up its eastern extremity. Working within the same culinary parameters as his neighbors, chef Tuhin Dutta has breathed new life into 6th Street staples like vindaloos, biriyanis, and tandoori chicken -- the latter one-upped by its even more succulent clay-oven cousin, sharabi kababi, which is rendered uncommonly moist with a wine-and-cream marinade ($12.95). Dutta particularly distinguishes himself, though, with his dumpakht, a Lucknowi dish that resembles a potpie with stewed meat or vegetables baked beneath a taut bread crust ($11.95-$12.95).

Out in Jackson Heights, Queens, Rajbhog Sweets is best-known for its 60-plus varieties of milk-based confections tantalizingly arranged in display cases like Neuchâtel truffles. But toward the back, a steam-table selection of mostly Gujarati vegetarian dishes makes this sweetshop a compelling mealtime destination. The assortment changes daily, and includes snacks like khaman dhokla (steamed chickpea-flour cakes dotted with black mustard seeds) and chickpea-battered chili peppers. Freed from gloppy curry bondage, vegetables here are done to a delicate turn: tooriya patra combines long green squash with Swiss-chard leaves and lima beans; karela are green Chinese eggplant, cooked in a subtly spicy sauce with potatoes and cashew nuts. At lunch, one vegetable, a paratha (flaky griddle-fried bread) or poori (puffy deep-fried bread), and a pickle will run you $2.75; $4.50 buys an extra vegetable medley, plus rice and dal. If you still have room for dessert, you're in the right place.

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· HAVELI, 100 Second Ave., 212-982-0533
· BANJARA, 97 First Ave., 212-477-5956
· RAJBHOG SWEETS, 72-27 37th Ave., Queens, 718-458-8512