Midtown Manhattan is the commercial hubof New York City, where the largest concentration of business exchange in theworld takes place. In addition, it is home to a number of iconic buildings suchas the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building. Midtown Manhattan isalso home to a large number of people coming from a diversity of backgrounds(Urban Mapping). In such an ambiance, the establishment of a competitivelypriced Indian restaurant would be culturally out of place, considering the factthe Midtown Manhattan is a high end commercial district. Yet, there is one thatis buzzing throughout the day with people from different backgrounds trying toget a seat.The majority of the transformations inManhattan begin in the 1920s with the reconstruction of Grand Central Station.This decision increased access to the city and led to a capitalist revolutionin the surrounding area.
Midtown Manhattan emerged as a commercial center. Thisshift ignited a chain of reactions that encompassed both commercial andresidential development. In addition, Midtown Manhattan also builtup an exclusive shopping district attracting individuals and organizations fromacross the globe. The accelerated urban growth in the city led the propertyvalue to rise and was referred to as the “Valley of the Giants” (Miller).
Another urban development that took place was the expansion of the serviceindustry, where administration offices, advertising agencies, law firms,national and international organizational branches were established (Miller).All of these changes led to Midtown Manhattan becoming the economic point ofattraction it is today.A historical analysis of the urbandevelopment of Manhattan highlights the accuracy of this, where the economicboom launched a number of urban projects. This fosters a particular class ofcapitalists and bourgeoisie who benefit from the modern, surreal urbanexperience. From an etic perspective, theestablishment of an Indian restaurant in the heart of Manhattan would not be successful. First, itwould mainly appeal to the Indian population of Manhattan, which is only aminority. According tostatistics, 68% of the population in Midtown Manhattan is of white origin,while 18% Asians, 8% Hispanic, 4% black and 2% people of other origins residein the area (New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene 2). Thishighlights that Manhattan is a pluralistic society, where a number of culturesexist side by side.
The second largest demographic in Manhattan is Asian, whichas a broad category that encompasses many different countries. When following aconcept of pluralism, it is clear that there would be a clientele for theIndian restaurant, but it would be small. Lookingon yelp, there are many Indian restaurants in the outer avenues such as 3rdor 9th but very few exist near times square. I found the restaurantCurry Dreams in 2015 when I was first hired as a junior producer for a news mediaorganization. I frequented the location many times for lunch and even the staffknows my usual order. I asked the owner who was ok with me sticking around fora few hours after I ate and the free refills of mango lassi made the stay evenbetter. Curry Dreams has all of their items marked at a price that doesn’t fit withthe norm of other establishments I have visited in the nearby area. Theestablishment is filled with traditional Indian instrumentals playing on repeatand the lightening that is also dim.
One of the first things I noticed were thetype of people who visited the established. Curry dreams runs a lunch buffet which isvery popular. I noticed the people who visit during the lunch hours. I did notsee any tourist, or families.
Rather, everyone was a businessman who probably workednearby. Everyone was white, wearing a button-down shirt, and was wearing tie orsuit jacket. There were also no females. Even at an Indian restaurant, I wasthe minority. AnIndian restaurant would be culturally irrelevant when considering the lifestyleof the people living or visiting Times Square/Bryant Park.
It is a relativelyyoung city, where the people are wealthy with bourgeoisie tastes. On another line of thought,Orientalism has a certain appeal for the West, which might boost the sales ofan Indian restaurant. However, if the establishment is not up to the pickystandards of the young, middle class, interest would decline. The food servedat Curry Dreams was not above and beyond nor was it a dump.
It fit the pricethey were charging. During my stay, past lunch time, the restaurant was nearlyempty. At max, it was 1/3 at capacity during the dinner hours I stayed. I askedthe waiter if it was a slow night or if this was normal.
He stated that thedinner service was much slower and it usually gets a 50% occupancy on a goodday. The staff have a hard time with the Englishlanguage although the managers and owners do speak English fairly well. CurryDream just does not meet the expectation of its neighborhood. Sure, many businessmencome in for a quick lunch but it is not a place that many tourist or the ‘averagejoe’ would go in this area.
This is even more conclusive when you look at thereviews on Yelp. It has over a hundred reviews with an average of two stars. Onereviewer even named it ‘Curry Nightmares’. Many reviewers who gave it a low ratingsaid the food was ok but the staff or customer service was lacking. I asked aco-worker via text about his opinion as we have gotten lunch together severaltimes from Curry Dreams. His argument was that people had a level ofexpectation when they decide to eat in midtown. People expect excellent foodand customer service that treats them like royalty. But when you’re eating a 3-coursemeal for 2 people and the total is under 35 dollars, what do you think you weregoing to get? MidtownManhattan is one of the commercial capitals of the entire world.
Although ithas a relatively short history in terms of urban development, it can beconsidered one of the well-planned cities. The city consists of a pluralisticsociety where the majority belongs to the middle class. There needs to befurther studies done on the role of average low-cost restaurants and theiraffect on the communities itself but also on the group that decide to eat there.I would have liked to spend more time observing and gathering more data such asthe occupations and income of those who did eat there. Overall, more researchshould be done on the role of these types of establishments play in an areasuch as midtown.