MIDTOWN — It may be time to reconsider that $3.99 lunch special.
The restaurant is popular both with local office workers for its rock-bottom prices for chicken and rice, along with cabbies who stop by for authentic food after afternoon prayers at the mosque next door.
Health inspectors visited the space four times during the week of April 9, and the most recent inspection was the ninth in less than a year that found evidence of mice in the restaurant. Chandi got an 'A' grade from inspectors as recently as July 2011. Chandi was still closed as of Tuesday morning.
On Monday at lunchtime, there were many disappointed and hungry would-be patrons.
"Oh my god, this is so sad!," shouted Terra Larrieux, 30, who works in the area and was hoping to get her normal order of curried goat.
"I can't believe it. This is the place — everyone in my office eats here."
The restaurant's metal grating was pulled down on Monday, blocking a Health Department shutdown notice in the window, and a sign said it was closed for construction. Several workers inside would not answer questions about when the restaurant would re-open.
As customers pulled up to the restaurant throughout their Monday lunchtime, few were concerned about its poor grade, but simply wanted to know when they could return for their meat-and-rice combination.
"This is ridiculous, every restaurant in New York has mice," said Mohamed Dani, who frequents the Masjid Al Rahman mosque next door.
The restaurant has also become a hangout for Middle Eastern and South Asian taxi drivers, and one, Omar El-fasik, had standing plans to meet a friend there after a long shift.
"Cabbies don't make much money," said El-fasik after he parked his cab on the street.
"We need to drive. We need to eat quick. We need this place."
That sentiment was shared by office workers who couldn't wait for Chandi to return.
"Everywhere we eat in New York can be disgusting," said Larrieux.
"If they clean it up, I'll be back."