Craving some curry? Longing for lassi? Or hankering for henna? If you’re looking for all things Indian, Pioneer Boulevard in Artesia is your place. Known as “Little India,” this neighborhood offers everything you could ask for, from eyebrow threading to saffron-flavored ice cream. Roughly defined as the stretch of Pioneer Boulevard from 184th to 188th streets, Little India makes for a great day trip.
Start your trip by popping into Cottage Art, a colorful little shop that’s packed from floor to ceiling with gorgeous furniture, fabrics, tapestries, pillows, and linens imported from India. You don’t have to spend a fortune, either: Cute little handbags start at under $10; we recently spotted a beautiful placemat and napkin set for under $30.
Were you hoping to dress yourself in a sari for that special occasion? Or are you just tempted by the dazzling array of fabric and beadwork on traditional Indian garments? Either way, you’ll probably find something you like at Rivaaz House of Fashion, where you can get everyday saris at 7 for $100, or you can drop more than that on a single bejeweled masterpiece. For your feet, you can make your selection from an entire rack of beaded slippers at just $25 for a pair.
If you had something even fancier in mind, check out Sakshi’s Dreams Collections for a jaw-dropping array of stunning outfits that would do for a formal affair or a wedding. Each item is unique and hand-crafted in India; Sakshi will help you find jewelry to match your personal creation.
If you’ve always been fascinated by Indian beauty rituals but didn’t know where to go to learn more, check out Beauty Palace. Eyebrow threading (a traditional art of hair removal using a cotton thread) starts at $6; henna art for your hands starts at $20.
Hungry yet? When it’s time for a snack, check out Jay Bharat, where you might be tempted by the sweets counter offering kaju katri (a sweet made from cashews, sugar, cardamom, and ghee) to motichur ladoo (a sweet made from pistachios, raisins, and garbanzo flour). If you want to sit down for an appetizer, try the khandvi, a brilliant yellow roll of garbanzo flour and spices, rolled thin and then steamed. It’s served with shredded coconut, cilantro, and mustard seeds, and accompanied by a mint chutney. The taste is mild – almost egg-like, but there are no eggs in there – with just a small amount of heat from the mustard seeds. Don’t forget the chai tea to wash it all down.
When you’re ready for a full meal, head on over to Bhimas, a South Indian vegetarian restaurant in the Little India Village Food Court. One specialty of the house is dosas, which are like enormous thin pancakes made with a fermented rice and lentil mixture – but with a very mild taste. On the kids’ menu (yes, there is a kids’ menu), you can order a “cone dosa,” which is a dosa shaped into an enormous cone, or even a “pizza dosa.” For your main meal, you’ll probably want to try a share a thali (Hindi for “plate”), which is kind of like a sampler plate with rice in the center and a variety of curries all around the outside. Order a mango lassi (yogurt drink) to help cool the spiciness.
For dessert, head next door in Little India Village Food Court to Saffron Spot for silky-smooth ice cream with intriguing flavors like rose, cardamom, pomegranate, or saffron; and for kulfi, an Indian-style frozen dessert similar to ice cream but very dense. Feeling adventurous? Try the kulfi falooda, which is a dessert made from kulfi served on a bed of rice noodles with rose syrup and takmaria (basil seeds).
Food and Spices
If you’re ready to go home but want to take a little bit of India back with you, head to the grocery store. Farm Fresh is a wonderland for any cook, and it’s especially appealing to gluten-free or vegetarian eaters. The flour aisle has row upon row of flour made from every imaginable grain, bean, and legume; in the produce aisle, there’s a wide variety of familiar vegetables, along with some lesser-known squashes and eggplant. You’ll also find plenty of ginger root, fresh curry leaves, and garlic.