The dosa is a South Indian staple, and while we’ve certainly had some superb dosa experiences in the city, it’s still hard to describe exactly what makes a perfect version of this extra-thin pancake. You want it crispy and maybe big—and the sambar on the side matters just as much as the dosa itself. But you also want something so light and airy you could fly it like a kite, or at least sit on it and float gently through the air. These aren’t qualities you’re going to find in any menu description, but you can trust that all of these dosas have passed that very specific test (and they taste amazing, too).
This cafeteria under the first and oldest Hindu temple in New York City is a South Indian institution. You’ll see temple-goers and tourists alike flock to the fluorescent-lit basement for idlis, sambar, and big buttery dosas. For a casual lunch, we go for the extra-long paper dosa or cone-shaped ghee dosa, because they’re extra thin, and thus extra crispy. But when you want lunch to feel a little special (and more filling), go for the Pondicherry masala dosa. The dosa is neatly folded into a triangle and stuffed with spicy potatoes that have a mix of green chilies, boondi, dal, and cashews folded in, and it makes a regular Tuesday afternoon feel festive. No matter what you order, the generous helpings of green coconut curry nearly spilling off of each styrofoam plate will provide some kick.
This South Indian spot in Jackson Heights makes some of the best dosas in the neighborhood, but it seems like most people haven’t figured that out yet because you can always walk in and get a table. When you order from the menu of over 20 different dosa options, start with the masala dosa and a few plates of samosa chaat. We like that the masala dosa is buttery, which balances out the spicy potatoes inside, and we also appreciate how the samosa stays firm under the mountain of chutney and yogurt.
Located across from the famous Temple Canteen, Dosa Hutt not-so-subtly provides temple-goers and passers-by a similar menu of South Indian food. If you want to skip the line at the Canteen, Dosa Hutt measures up. Go with a lentil (GF) or rava dosa to fill with our favorite stuffing, paneer bhurji, and be sure to get an idli and vada to dip into the coconut chutney and sambar. Dosa Hutt also has a few unique dosas you definitely can’t find next door, such as their spinach-and-cheese and chocolate varieties. We haven’t tried those yet, but apparently somebody have, so we’ll give them a shot the next time we’re here.
This is a neighborhood spot in Clinton Hill that has some of the best South Indian food in Brooklyn. There’s plenty of space to eat indoors, and the outdoor patio has nice views of nearby brownstones. If you like the sound of curry potatoes covered in flaky crust, get the masala dosa. For something spicier, go for the rava masala dosa. These dishes are on par with what you’ll find at Indian spots in Manhattan, except you can enjoy them in a space that never feels packed.
This vegan dosa cart in Washington Square Park is just as legendary as any other New York City monument, and so is the dosa man who runs it (named Thiru Kumar). NY Dosas serves South Indian staples like vegetable and curried potato-filled dosas, roti, and samosas every day (except for Sunday) from 11am to 3pm out of a little cart by the dog run in the park. All of the dosas are served with coconut chutney and sambar, and you can pay with cash or Venmo.
Deep makes some of the best frozen Indian food out there, and we advise you to get to your nearest South Asian grocery store and pick up a box of their chicken korma ASAP. Luckily for us in New York City, Deep also has three restaurants here where you can taste the family’s food made fresh in house. At their three counter-service locations, you can build your own biryani, kati roll, dosa, or salad, with your choice of protein like chicken tikka or mushrooms. If you go for a dosa, you won’t be getting the big crispy crepe most places serve—it’s more like a taco in an uttapam-like shell. But it’s a fun vehicle for unconventional dosa fillings like lamb kofta and even pulled pork. Choose your spice level, then decide between a bottled mango lassi or a ginger cane drink.
Pongal serves some of the best and crispiest dosas in NYC, with an extensive selection of 31 lentil and rava dosas. Focus on the specialty dosa menu. This is one place where you can deviate from the usual onion masala and paneer varieties, with options like a creamy spinach or cheese spring dosa—which don’t become too weighed down and soft like a European-style stuffed crepe. Alongside every specialty dosa, you’ll still get sunny yellow turmeric whipped masala potatoes, a dense coconut chutney, and a tangy tomato chutney that we wish came in the same big portion size as the sambar.
Hampton Chutney Co looks like a chain, and they occasionally make use of the Comic Sans font, but don’t let these things deter you from eating here. There are actually only two locations (the other of which is in the Hamptons), and they make some seriously good dosas here. They’re about the length of your arm and come stuffed with everything from eggs and potatoes to some exceptional curry chicken.
Pretty much everything at Semma is worth ordering, but the dosa is one of their best vegetarian options. The podi-dusted rice-and-lentil dosa is filled with soft masala potatoes and a bunch of black mustard seeds. The inside tastes like it’s been bound together with stringy, melted cheese, but that’s only because the crepe’s fermented lentils release salty-creamy moisture when cooked. The effect is incredible. Dip each piece into the mint and coconut-cilantro sauces, and drink the warming lentil sambar on the side.
Lore is not a dosa spot. It’s not really even an Indian restaurant. But the one dosa they do have on their internationally-inspired menu is our favorite of their starters, so if you find yourself in the highly specific situation of wanting a dosa while planning a dinner with a friend who wants buckwheat lasangetti, Lore is your spot . From the wide-ranging menu, you’d think that their dosa would be fusion-y, but it’s got a solid, thoroughly spiced red lentil daal and potato filling similar to what you’ll find at any South Indian-specific restaurant. It also comes with a generous sprinkling of gunpowder to give the crepe some red chili-based smokiness. Scoop up plenty of coconut chutney–they do not skimp on the coconut. And if you’d like more heat, you can ask for a spicier red chutney on the side.