Chipotle-Style Pakistani Fast Food Joint Opens in Union Square

By Heather Holland on June 26, 2014 11:12am 

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  Desi Shack offers South Asian cuisine served in an assembly-line format.
Desi Shack Union Square
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UNION SQUARE — A Pakistani fast food joint inspired by Chipotle recently opened its second location in Union Square.

Desi Shack, at 135 Fourth Ave. near 13th Street, offers South Asian cuisine served in an assembly-line format, where customers can build their meal by choosing a base, a protein and toppings. Options include a basmati rice bowl with chicken tikka and a salad bowl with aloo masala, made with potatoes and spices.

“It’s the same menu and same cuisine as our location on Lexington Avenue,” said owner Yasmine Ibrahim. “Our new location is a little different in that it has a slightly warmer and artsy feel.”

The store has an open kitchen so that customers can watch as workers prepare the food, cooking fresh traditional Pakistani bread called paratha on a flat grill, said Ibrahim, who hails from Egypt and whose husband comes from Pakistan.

“Customers can see the bread being made right in front of their eyes,” Ibrahim said. “The recipes for the bread and the skewered meats come from my husband’s family. We really want to focus on the roots of Pakistani food.”

Customers start with a choice of a base such as a paratha roll, a basmati rice bowl and a salad bowl, then add proteins including chicken tikka, beef keema and achari paneer, made of marinated farmers cheese. Prices range from $5.05 to $8.50.

The eatery, which opened earlier this month, also offers a chutney corner, with an assortment including cilantro mint chutney and green chili coconut chutney.

“It gives people the option to really spice it up or tone it down,” Ibrahim said.

Desi Shack opened its first outpost in Midtown at 331 Lexington Ave. between 38th and 39th streets in 2012, where there was more of a focus on the office crowd, she said.

“At our Union Square location, we have much busier dinners than we do lunches sometimes, which is different,” Ibrahim said.

Desi Shack, 135 Fourth Ave., is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m and from noon to 10:30 p.m. on the weekends. 

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