Panna II-the cheapest, brightest Indian in NYC

I met my friend at 1st avenue and 8th street and we proceeded, eagerly, to a nearby deli to pick out our beers for our soon-to-be-had meal. Eagerly we bought these beers because, well, BYOB restaurants aren’t exactly common in New York, nor are they always good when you find them. Panna II, he swore to me, is good. So I threw some Delirium and Raspberry UFO into my giant black purse (See? The huge lady-bags are, on rare occasion, practical), and followed my friend, the sure-of-himself BYOB restaurant connoisseur, up the stairs at 1st avenue and 6th street to Panna II. Saying it’s hard to find would be about as opposite of the truth as I could muster up. The lights from this little clump of Indian restaurants glare and twinkle and shout their specials in neon so loudly that I bet it leaves an eye-aching bright spot on Google Maps Satellite view when searched.

I pulled out the beer opener attached to my massive set of unnecessary keys and flipped the caps on both of our beers as the waiters hyperactively sat us down in a crammed corner with menus. Truth be told, there wasn’t so much as leg room, let alone room for my giant black purse, and as New York often makes me, I was yet again thankful for not being overweight. The entire restaurant is probably as big as a small trailer. In fact, I think that’s too big. Scratch that. It’s about as big as the living room of a small trailer. And its on the second floor and there are strobe lights and christmas lights and beers like Delirium in your purse–all making the Panna II experience one of the most surreal New York has to offer a fearless and thrifty Indian-food-loving gal.

I thought I saw Michael Jackson while ordering my Cheese Poori, but thought better of the situation when I talked myself down from my enthusiasm. “Elizabeth, not every very white man with black hair and sunglasses is Michael Jackson. Especially not in a restaurant like this. You’d have your sunglasses on too if you’d thought to bring them” I told myself.

But the Cheese Poori was fabulous. I then had their soup, then their Mushroom Shag, then their cute little bowl of ice cream they give you when you order the embarrassingly cheap dinner special. (Appetizer, Soup, Paratha, Condiments, Entree, and Dessert for either $10 or $10.95 depending on whether you’re ordering vegetarian or not. And I was ordering vegetarian).

I left the disco-style Indian trailer and my head hurt a little as I embraced the cold, dark night. I never thought New York would seem ‘dark’ when exiting a restaurant until I went to Panna II, but in no way is this a bad thing. In fact, I’d suggest this restaurant before many others to friends visiting. Because, really, lets do the math: you bring your own beer and you pay $10, give or take, to stuff yourself to a point that makes un-cramming yourself from the corner, across from Michael Jackson, a bit more difficult than it should be. It’s just my kind of restaurant.

By: Elizabeth Seward

Photos from: and

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