Honest Vegetarian Indian Restaurant is Love at First Bite!

honest indian store front photo by gail worley
All Photos By Gail

In NYC right now, it’s exciting to see  favorite neighborhoods making a post-pandemic comeback. New stores and restaurants are opening everywhere, revitalizing the local economy, and getting us all pumped-up for a fun summer in the city. Being a downtown girl, I love seeing what’s new in places like Bleecker Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village, where there’s always something  interesting to discover — especially when it comes to good eats. If you love Indian food as much as I do, please allow me to put Honest, a recently-opened fast casual Indian Vegetarian Restaurant, on your radar.

Honest has a fascinating history: a journey that’s taken this family business from its genesis as a street cart in India to an international chain with over 31 locations in the US, all serving delicious, healthy Indian specialties. Now, Honest has arrived on Bleecker Street, and that’s definitely worth getting excited about.

front of room seating photo by gail worley
front of store photo mural photo by gail worley
Honest Founder, Ramesh Gupta is seen in this mural with his original Street Cart in Law Garden, a popular open air food market in Ahmedabad, India 

Honest started out in the late 1960s as a single street cart, owned by Ramesh Gupta, selling only chaat (traditional savory snacks sold by street vendors in India). In 1975, Gupta added cooked-to-order hot vegetarian meals made with the freshest ingredients. With input from his customers, Ramesh developed his recipe for Bhaji Pav, a spiced vegetable curry served with buttered rolls. His wife Vimla’s spice blend recipe completed  their signature dish. The Guptas named their cart Honest because of the purity of the product and the customer transparency they provided. After expanding successfully across India and elsewhere, Honest launched its first store in the United States in 2016.

honest seating area photo by gail worley dining area photo by gail worley
Honest Can Accommodate up to 50 Customers in its Bright and Comfortable Dining Areas

To ensure that Honest’s  US locations maintain a standard of high quality,  Vasisht Ramasubramanian, a former sous chef at Jean-George’s ABC Cocina, serves as Corporate Executive Chef, training kitchen staff at each location. To date, Honest has 60 locations in Gujarat, India, two in Canada, two in Australia, and two in Thailand in addition to those in the States. The backbone of Honest’s cuisine are  Amul Butter — a cultured butter from a dairy cooperative in Gujarat —their proprietary spice blends, and fresh ingredients, cooked to order from scratch. No ingredients are ever frozen (they don’t even own a freezer) and their goal is to sell out by the end of each business day.

patio dining area photo by gail worleyFeel like dining Al Fresco? Honest has a small patio out back with covered tables, offering protection from the summer sun

The restaurant is clean and bright, with lots of well-spaced seating, so you can feel comfortable dining-in or picking up an order to go.

Now to the food. Here’s what we ate on our first visit!

bhaji pav photo by gail worley
Bhaji Pav

Of course, we had to start with their signature dish, Bhaji Pav ($12.99), which is a spiced vegetable curry served with lightly toasted, buttered dinner rolls (Pav). This light and fluffy bread (which looks a little like a hamburger bun) is baked fresh in Honest’s  New Jersey bakery, and you can order additional Pav ($1.99) if you decide to share this dish (which I recommend). It is a very generous portion, especially if you are ordering other dishes also.

Bhaji Pav is really a fantastic and delicious dish that tastes like authentic Indian comfort food. The curry has a hearty consistency, comparable to dal (lentils) which is created from a base of mashed potatoes, with assorted vegetables and basmati rice, all cooked in butter with aromatic herbs and spices. Crisp papadam wafers and a side of onion relish are also included. The buttered rolls are simply out of this world, and when dipped into the tasty, mild curry it is easy to understand how the entire restaurant menu launched from this one recipe. Very highly recommended.

samosa chat photo by gail worley
Samosa Chaat

Pictured above is the Samosa Chaat: Samosas (vegetable stuffed fried turnovers) layered with chana masala (chickpea curry) and assorted chutneys including onion, cucumber, tomato, pomegranate seeds, tamarind and cilantro chutneys, and raita, topped with crunchy thin sev (fried potatoes). This is a knife-and-fork dish with many contrasting tastes and textures, so it really offers something for everyone.

The restaurant serves a large variety of different chaat including Pani Puri, semolina puffs stuffed with boiled potatoes and black garbanzo beans, served with refreshing mint cilantro water and sweet chutney; Bhel, puffed rice and vegetables tossed with sweet, sour, and spicy chutneys; and Vada Pav, potato and garlic dumplings in chickpea batter. Why not dine with a small group of friends and order many different chaats to share? Great idea!

masala dosa photo by gail worley
Masala Dosa

Honest favors dishes from the southern Indian states, which means that while you will not see Naan bread on the menu, you will find a variety of dosas. Dosa is very similar to a crepe and is a very popular street food in India because it’s so versatile. We tried the Masala Dosa ($12.99), a thin and crispy rice and lentil flour crepe filled with potato, onions, and spices, served with a side of tender potato chunks cooked in a mild curry gravy. Accompaniments include  a side of raita and extra spicy sauce — if you can take it. This is a fun dish to eat, very filling, and of course it is delicious.

pulav photo by gail worley
Pulav

One of my favorite Indian dishes is vegetable Biryani, and Honest has their southern Indian version called Pulav ($12.99), which is assorted chopped fresh vegetables, cooked in butter and aromatic spices with tender basmati rice, topped with fresh cilantro. Could there be anything more yummy than a bowl of rice and veggies cooked in butter and spices? It is highly doubtful. Not to mention, but you can see I am about to, the serving easily feeds two people.

schezwan noodles photo by gail worley
Szechuan Noodles

The restaurant’s diverse menu also includes a variety of Indo-Chinese selections. Szechuan Noodles ($12.99) serves up stir fried vegetables and soft noodles tossed in Honest’s special garlic Szechuan sauce. This dish is comparable to the Lo Mein you might find in Chinese restaurants, but Honest kicks up the heat just enough. So good!

front counter with drinks photo by gail worley

Honest has a nice selection of grab-and-go beverages. In addition to freshly squeezed fruit juices, Rose Lassi, Mango Lassi, hot tea and coffee, the store plans to introduce beer and wine at the Bleecker Street location for the first time in any of their United States locations. I’m sure that will be very popular!

honest dessert menu photo by gail worley

If you still have room for something sweet after stuffing your face like we did, you can choose from a selection of tasty Indian Desserts on the menu, but that will have to wait for our next visit!

ganesh figure photo by gail worley

Honest is Located at  176 Bleecker Street, NYC,  between MacDougal and Sullivan Streets and near the NYU campus (NYU Students get a15% Discount with ID). Please visit them online at 
NYCHonest for store hours and more information!

masala dosa detail photo by gail worleyhonest photo mural photo by gail worley

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