For the last 30 years the roughly 2 dozen Indian restaurants situatied on East 6th Street in the heart of the East vilage have been vying for control of cusomters’ business. After the success of previous Indian restaurants in the area, current owners claimed to have followed example and set up shop in hopes of emulating them.
The Taj Restaurant, opened in 1985, is one of eight Indian restaurants on the street. The owner is Nurun Khan, originally from Bangladesh, whomoved to the country in the 1990s. She said when she first arrived that 6th street was “known as THE Indian food street”.
When asked if having so many competitors nearby was bad for business Mrs. Khan smiled, sipped her mango lassi and said, “There are millions of people coming in and out of New York everyday, I don’t think this street is enough!”
Abdul Ihashim, who works at the Taj Mahal Restaurant, does not echo Mrs. Khan’s sentiments. Ruefully glancing over the empty restaurant he said this street once cantered to visitors from “all over the Tri-State area”. Now with the Indian cuisine becoming popular in New York, and more and more restaurants opening every year business was not as good.
Many customers claimed to have not thought about going to any one particular restaurant, but just walked into whichever they fancied. Varun Dubey, a student on break from Ohio, said, “I walked in [Taj Mahal] because I liked the sign. I didn’t think about whether I wanted to go to this one, or that one [next door].”
Each restaurant owner seemed to know of two previously existing Indian restaurants- Shah Bagh and Anar Bagh. These restaurants were the first to be opened on 6th street, and paved the way for existing establishments. Mitali East, opened in 1973, is the oldest existing restaurant still on the street. Abdul Moyeed, who works the tables at Mitali, claims after the success of the first two restaurants, “more and more of us [Bangladeshis]” followed their example.
According to a report on the city website, from 1980-1990 there was a 4.4 percent increase in population in the area. It was within time frame when most of the existing restaurants on 6th street opened, with an influx of Bangladeshi immigrants looking for work.
This pattern of following fellow countrymen to set up shop, and form a community of sorts, has manifested itself all over New York. Chinatown and Little Italy are but larger models of 6th street. The doorman at the Taj Mahal said most of the owners were from the same area in Bangladesh, and never directly competed with or confronted each other.
“They do not fight each other”, he said, with a gap-toothed smile. “We are from the same place. We are friends. ”