When it comes to the quick fix meal, we all have our stand-bys, be it a plain slice or a buttered roll from the bodega counter. But there are times when the basics just won’t satisfy the hunger that comes from the thousands of steps it takes to navigate the day’s commute. On those days, I find myself drawn to Kabir’s Bakery on Church Avenue, and not just for a large chai, composed of tea steeped dark as decaf (that shade of burnt caramel that makes for a watery coffee, but is perfection in a cuppa) and mixed with milk and heaping spoons of sugar. It’s a simple comfort, but somehow so much more satisfying than what the Dunkin up the block has to offer. But one can’t live off tea alone.
While this particular outpost carries the breads and baked goods expected, its real lure is the savory Bangla snacks and meals that remind you just how far a few dollars can stretch when your palate demands what your passport can’t currently accommodate. The bakery is always buzzing, back tables full of men debating the particulars of topics I can’t decipher for lack of language skills, but I can tell by their tone it requires warm bowls of chotpoti, a mixture of potatoes, chickpeas, and onions, topped with fresh, chopped chilis.
The counter is a busy space, with locals streaming in for samosas and vegetable pakoras. If you seek pakoras of the shrimp variety, you’ll have to wait till after 4pm when they’re freshly prepared daily. A fact I sorely learned while trying to appease a hangover that demanded a remedy that only this crunchy, turmeric spiced treat would provide. Trays of chicken rolls beckon to you, reminiscent of the egg rolls you’ll find on every Chinese take-out menu, but with a chewier fried skin and stuffed full of ground chicken seasoned to perfection.
But when the hunger is real, and all these golden brown, carb-heavy wonders can’t handle the job, get the chicken sandwich. Toasted bread slathered in mayonnaise and ketchup, and piled high with rustic chunks of chopped chicken that’s been spiced with the seeds of cumin, black caraway, mustard and fennel. Flavors far removed from your typical chicken salad at the deli, but familiar and comforting like a sandwich made from holiday leftovers.
No matter what you order, you will be upsold and offered everything available. In multiples. Initially, you’ll balk at this sales tactic, but once you’re home and finishing whatever modest portion you’ve allowed yourself, you’ll regret not listening to the suggestions of the ladies at the register pushing you to take three. Keep an eye on the friers, there is always a fresh tray of something being laid out, and you might find yourself in the market for a new lunch fixation.
Kabir’s Bakery, 97 Church Avenue, Kensington. 7am -10pm daily