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The Carletonian

Desi Diner divvies up divine delectables despite depressing dearth

It hadn’t even been a full three weeks since I got to Carleton, and I already missed my mom’s cooking. Maybe ‘missed’ is the wrong word, perhaps too strong to describe what I felt. I don’t even hate on the dining halls that much, unlike some of my peers, who derive great pleasure from ranting on the topic. I don’t feel homesick in the slightest, and didn’t expect it to be a problem — I’m going back home for winter break anyway; it’s just three months, right? But the abject lack of South Asian cuisine in the dining halls was starting to get to me, and my diet slowly becoming a permanent mix of tofu and pizza was not helping. 

In my new situation of living in Cornfield, Middle of Nowhere, I did not expect to find a solution to my problem and expected that any option that I did have would not pass muster. With classes starting to kick off properly and the dining hall menus starting to be recycled, I was resigning myself to my two options of either cooking for myself, an activity that I did not have the tools or ingredients for, or shutting up and eating my MinnTofu slabs. 

During international student orientation, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the section editors who decide the fate of this article, Rahim Hamid ’26. Rahim is from Pakistan, and they were the one that introduced me to a previously unknown third option: eating at Desi Diner. I was skeptical at first, but with my other options not being particularly appealing, I decided to try it. We went to Desi Diner the following weekend, bringing along a friend each for non-South Asian perspectives. 

Desi Diner is on Division Street, right next to Goodbye Blue Monday. Walking into a new place, the first thing I notice is usually the ambience. The warm lighting and the constant but soft chit-chat from the other tables that served as our auditory backdrop throughout the evening created a casual coffee shop atmosphere, perfect for a comfortable conversation. If you listened carefully, you could also hear some old Bollywood music, 

which earns this place extra points from me. Ordering was a standard process, but after we placed our orders, we were each given plastic plates and utensils. This put me off a little, but I decided not to judge them too harshly without even tasting the food, which arrived not too long after we sat down. 

For drinks, we ordered two mango lassis to be shared between four people. Before going here, I had heard criticisms that this place was too expensive to visit regularly. I am here to tell you that if you are splitting the bill between two or more people, it is not more costly at all because the portion sizes easily feed more than one person. The mango lassi itself was above average: it was good flavor-wise, but could have used some improvement in its texture and thickness. It was thicker than I was used to, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, a traditional lassi is much thinner. All in all, it’s a drink worth trying.

Now, I am a vegetarian. However, a food review would be incomplete without passing judgment on non-vegetarian dishes. This is where Rahim comes in. They ate the non-vegetarian dishes: chicken pakoras, seekh kebab and the naan that came with it. The pakoras received Rahim’s approval, who said that the chicken was “cooked well and [had] good seasoning.” As a welcome surprise, the sauces and chutneys provided with the dishes were also great, which is usually a common pain-point for Indian food. The real star of Rahim’s meal was the seekh kebab, which was good enough that it passed as authentic; if ‘[they] had it back home, [they] wouldn’t think twice’. Needless to say, Rahim liked the food. 

On the other side of the table, I had ordered a Chana Masala (chickpea curried in various spices) and aloo paratha (potato stuffed flatbread). I had high hopes for the aloo paratha — it was my go-to comfort food. But sadly, the paratha just barely got a passing mark. It wasn’t bad, just underwhelming. For such a staple dish, they could do much better. It lacked both flavor and the softness and structure that a good aloo paratha has. While Kelly summed it up with a simple “I didn’t like it,” I enjoyed it, albeit way less than I wanted to. My disappointment at the paratha, however, was soon undone by the Chana Masala. It was cooked to perfection, was served hot and tasted like it was straight out of an Indian kitchen. Without exaggeration, it was maybe the best thing I ate that week. The only criticism I have — and this is very nitpicky and personal — is that I would’ve preferred it to be more spicy. But I understand that, due to the location of this restaurant, most of its customers would prefer a milder spice level. 

Overall, I was satisfied with my meal. The food itself passed by all my markers and the atmosphere was great for conversation if you go with someone else. My main criticism of the place is that for the price, they should provide better plates and utensils. The utensils we received weren’t flimsy, but they did not match the level of everything else at the restaurant. I understand that this is because they offer a take-out option, which obviously requires plastics, but I think that if they are going to offer a dine-in option, they should invest in some real crockery and cutlery. 

Final Scores

Rahim – 8.5

Dean – 8.5

Kelly – 8.7

Adit – 8

In my opinion as a professional and expert indian food eater, Desi Diner is a great option for people who are familiar with and enjoy Ssouth Aasian cuisine and for people who have never had a bite of the heaven that is Ssouth Aasian food, I urge you to visit and try a new taste. It is not too spicy, even for people who don’t do well with spice, and there the lassi is a great way to counter any spice that the food may throw at you. While it was ‘not what you get back home’ as Rahim put it, it certainly was reassuring to know that if I ever craved a familiar taste, it was just a 10 minute walk* and ~$20 away.


*numbers are representative of a non-Goodhue residential experience.


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