A loud, bustling Pakistani place with a dingy interior and cabby clientele, Zaiqa is the real deal. The interior is funky, but not in a hip or deliberate way. Christmas lights adorn the ceiling and an overhead menu hangs that's less helpful than the point-and-ask method of ordering. On every occasion I've visited, I've been the only woman and, most likely, the only native-born American in the room. Most of the folks who frequent Zaiqa are from the city's Muslim community, and many (as evidenced by the dozens of yellow cars parked along the street outside) are cab drivers. There's a pool table in a side room where they often hang.
You might feel out of place walking into Zaiqa, particularly since most of the surrounding conversations are in one non-English language or another. To be discouraged by this would be a mistake. Zaiqa features excellent dishes, though they aren't prepared with aesthetics in mind. The food here is to be eaten, not admired. It's cafeteria-style dining, complete with orange trays and a sneeze guard. From behind the glass, however, come heaping spoonfuls of some of the best Pakistani food around. Pakistani cuisine, while featuring some regional specialties, is more or less similar to Indian food, and Zaiqa offers items familiar to any lover of South Asian cuisine. If available (the menu is variable), try the boneless green chicken or the lamb curry. The chapati (flat, unleavened wheat bread) is not to be missed.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Freda Moon