533 Jackson Street (Between Kearny & Columbus)
SF, CA 94133
I went to the Naan ‘n Curry (on their bowls, it’s called “Naan ‘n Cyurry”) for dinner with some pals….
…and was surprised that they, too, had increased their prices in the last year. C’mon, can’t anyone get a meal for $4.99 in SF anymore? Ok, ok, no need to discuss the rising prices of chicken, produce, and wage laborers. One of my companions was quick to note a shiny new Zagat’s award behind the cash register — calling N ‘n C one of best cheap eats in San Francisco. This is Zagat’s, mind you. Our theory has nothing to do with city politics or agribusiness. We just know that a Zagat’s budget is a bit bigger than a GrubGirl budget…so to someone who is lured there by Zagat’s, the prices are still cheap. For not-so-closet grub diners, we were a bit perturbed.
We used to be able to order meat dishes for $4.99. No such luck. The cheapest things on the menu were, obviously, the vegetable curries, with the cheapest being Daal (yellow lentils) for $3.99. Here’s a breakdown of what our motley crew (one carnivore, one vegetarian, and one kosher kid) ordered:
* Lamb Curry – (Lamb cooked in blend of spices…I believe the sauce consists of pureed onions, too) $5.99 – Albeit very tasty, we did see pools of red-tinted oil appearing in various areas of the dish. I didn’t mind but…if you would like to continue eating cheap Indian food and think it’s not fattening, best to stay away from the visual evidence in this dish. Otherwise, it was fabulous.
* Chicken Tikka Masala – (Boneless chicken with sauce) $5.99 – Every Indian restaurant will serve this, so pay attention to the chicken. N ‘n C served this with grilled chicken — and the sauce was creamy without being fatteningly overpowering.
* We stayed away from the Seafood Curries, which were $9.99 a dish.
* Aloo Palak – (Spinach with potatoes) $4.99 – decent dish but tough when it fits the diets of all three of us — probably would be just right for someone’s individual lunch
* Bhaingan Bharta – (Eggplant cooked with onion, tomato, and spices) $4.99 – for a carnivore like me, I was really surprised that I liked the flavoring of this dish! The eggplant seemed to be pretty pulverized – they didn’t exist in cubes or strips like at Chinese restaurants – and it was not bitter at all. This was also puree-like, so I think the pureed onion may have balanced the eggplant flavor.
* Plain Rice – (Basmati) $1.00 — this is the one with tiny orange and yellow flecks in it. I almost suggested ordering the fried rice (ie rice with stuff in it) but balked when I saw that those dishes were $6.99!! Any “peeps” are gonna know that…”fried rice don’t cost no $6.99….” (say that in your best Bernie Mac impersonation)
* Naan – we had naan stuffed with potatoes, onion naan, and garlic naan. Each for $1.99. Yes, we splurged, since regular naan is $1.00.
At least their chai is still free – look for the hot water pump-y device to the right of the cash register. I hadn’t noticed this before, but some of the tandoori was cheap (Ground Lamb Kebob for 3.99, Ground Beef Kebob for 1.99).
Price per person, including tip: $10. Yes, I was pretty full, though craving dessert.
Don’t get me wrong – I still like Naan ‘n Curry – I keep going back to this one since it’s the cleanest cheap Indian eats I know. (Don’t get started on how my friend bit into a rock at Shalimar in the ‘Loin, or how I no longer eat meat with visible bones because of Pakwan in the Mission…) Though things are slowly going upscale, with the misspelled bowls, the Zagat’s award, and the occasional blaring Indian house music, I hope they remember the true budget grubbers that helped to put them on the map in the first place. Maybe one slow night of the week they could have their $4.99 meat prices again, just to preserve the street cred.