The Jackson Diner isn't a diner, so the name is pretty misleading. It's an Indian Restaurant in Jackson Heights, in the part of town that is often called Little India. It used to be located in an old diner hence the name.
New York is known for its wide array of food choices, but in general the Indian food here isn't all that highly rated. The Jackson Diner was one of the first places, years ago, to raise the bar on the Indian cuisine available in the city.
In the last decade or so there has been an upsurge in the quality of Indian food available in the city, and other restaurants have caught up, which has led to some people claiming that The Jackson Diner isn't what it used to be. Having only been there recently I can't attest whether this is true or not.
What I can say is that when we visited on a Friday in the early evening (it would've been barely six o'clock) we weren't the only diners there despite the early hour.
We were seated promptly, and were brought papadams and three accompaniments immediately. I have no idea what these three items were. One was very spicy and so being a spice wimp I stayed away from that. One of the other two had red bell-peppers chopped in a spicy oil and the third had a sweet flavour, almost like mango, and was my favourite of the three. I even dipped my garlic naan in it during the main course.
The menu offers traditional North Indian Cuisine mainly with a few South Indian specialties (like dosas). The restaurant accepts cash only, which is a bit odd in this day and age but isn't really an issue, so long as people know that before they go there.
I opted for the Aloo Gobi, which is a potato and cauliflower dish. I asked for it to be cooked mild as per my spice intolerant tastebuds and I'm glad I did. I found that it still had a bit of bite and flavour to it but it wasn't too much. Other restaurants in the city where I've asked for it to be mild have led to my meal being extremely bland. Thankfully, this was not the case here.
The curries come with rice, dal and raita. The rice was soft and not clumping together which is how I like it. The dal had a really good texture to it, not just like slop and the flavour was meaty and something you could really enjoy. It wasn't just plain and one note either, it had a few things for you to taste.
The garlic naan was delicious. The best I've had in the city. It was hot, and seemed really fresh, not like it had been reheated, like it had just been made. The garlic flavour was strong and it wasn't too greasy.
The Aloo Gobi I had was probably the best version of this dish I've had, but I'm not an expert. My partner ordered the Murg Tikka Makhanwala which was like a Butter Chicken. This dish was also very, very good. He loved it and ate until he felt about to explode and looked like it too.
The extra bloated feeling he got from combining his meal with a Kingfisher probably didn't help matters. However, that's what you get when you eat too much. (Although, the food here was so good I could understand why.) He ate all of his rice too, while I left a fair amount of mine, not because there was anything wrong with it, just because it would've been too much food.
The decor wasn't the classiest. It had an old-fashioned, somewhat outdated feel but the food was so good that I didn't care. In fact, it kind of added to the charm that the surroundings didn't match the quality of the food. I would certainly recommend this place to people looking for good Indian food who aren't afraid to schlep out to Queens for it.
Overall, the meal was very enjoyable. The service was friendly and the cost was equal to the quality of the food. I can't say how authentic the flavours are, as I've read elsewhere that the food is designed to suit a western palate, but all I can say is I left entirely satisfied with my meal, and would definitely return. They also have a very affordable lunch buffet option - I can't comment on this as I haven't been but the prices are definitely very reasonable.