Indian food has long been a staple of the British bar scene. Immigrants from the former colony opened spicy curry shops, many of which were open late. This led to Indian food becoming quite popular across the pond. It only makes sense that it has also become popular here in the United States, where our appetites for world foods are bottomless.
Much like Chinese food and Mexican food before that, Indian dishes have become somewhat Americanized. There are certain staples you can expect to find on every menu, such as butter chicken, warm and soft naan bread, and spicy vindaloo. Beyond those common dishes, you can expect to see a variety of stewed meats and slow-cooked vegetables on the menu at most Indian eateries, along with seasoned rice and a variety of leavened flatbreads beyond the standard white naan.
San Diego has a massive appetite for Indian cuisine, which means you can find Indian eateries dappled all over the city. Whether you’re in Old Town or Kearny Mesa, there is likely a solid Indian restaurant option nearby. However, not all Indian places are created equal. Some have better selections of dishes or use more authentic seasonings and cooking methods than others. Some have a reputation for spice overloads that can overwhelm those new to Indian cuisine.
We’ve done the legwork for you, searching out places that serve authentic dishes that cater to people of all tastes (and levels of spice tolerance). This list contains four of the best options around town, whether you’re a life-long Indian food lover or new to this genre of cooking.
Location: 3890 5th Avenue (map)
Hours: Seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Located in the trendy Hillcrest neighborhood, Tandoori Hut has no issue standing out from the dozens of other local restaurants. After all, their menu features classic Indian cuisine, complemented by a selection of both beer and wine. People love the imported Taj beer, which goes well with spicy dishes. For those who want something without alcohol to cut through the heat, they serve a few flavors of the popular yogurt drinks called lassi here.
You can find every common and typical Indian dish here, as well as a few options that are harder to locate. In addition to the popular standard, vegetable samosas, they serve a version with lamb. They also make fish and shrimp pakora, instead of just mixed vegetable pakora, a fried dish that uses chickpea flour in the batter.
There are many kinds of Indian flatbread here, from plain naan to naan stuffed with cheese, mashed onions, or garlic and cilantro. Main dishes include a broad assortment of stews, as well as kebabs of fresh meat, such as tandoori chicken, fish and marinated lamb. Vegetarians will also find plenty to love here, with dishes featuring homemade Indian cheese, called paneer, as well as many completely vegetarian options.
Taste of the Himalayas
Location: 3185 Midway Drive (map)
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Over the years, Taste of the Himalayas has expanded to include locations in Carlsbad, La Jolla, Hillcrest and El Cajon. The Midway location in Point Loma, however, was the original location that started it all. The menu features a brilliant mix of both Nepalese and Indian dishes, all within a dining space filled with beautiful Tibetan decorations.
If you’re feeling brave or really want to impress your dinner guests, request service in their back room. There, you can relax on special pillows on the floor, in an immersive experience meant to recall dining in the Himalayas. Enjoy a chaya, which is a Nepalese hot tea made with milk, and order up some steamed Himalayan dumplings or any of a wide range of popular Indian dishes.
One of the great things about this restaurant is that you can order sauces and chutneys on the side. Many places only serve them with certain dishes or on a buffet. Being able to order raita (cucumber yogurt sauce) or mango chutney to go with your rice, stews or bread is a great option. If you like things spicy, be sure to check out their 911 Sauce, which is a rather spicy Himalayan sauce, and unlike what you’ll find at many Indian eateries.
Location: 9235 Activity Road, Suite 111 (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Located north of town, Punjabi Tandoor is well worth the drive. They’ve expanded to a number of other nearby locations as well, including Carlsbad and one to open soon in Irving. Whether you want fast and convenient online ordering for a lunch special or prefer to eat in with friends, this place has you covered.
As the name implies, they do serve quite a few dishes that are made in tandoori clay ovens. These include lamb and chicken dishes, as well as their many kinds of flatbread. They serve roti, which is a whole wheat bread, along with white naan. There are fried versions, as well as stuffed and buttered breads available, all of which are made fresh in the tandoori ovens in the kitchen.
They have over a dozen vegetarian curries, ranging from potato and peas to lentils and homemade paneer cheese. Meat eaters will find plenty of tasty options that include chicken or lamb, as well as some specialty goat dishes and even fish. Save some room for dessert, as your options will include a sweet rice pudding, a cheese ball in sweet syrup and even carrot pudding. They don’t serve alcohol here, but you can enjoy coffee, teas, soft drinks and even lassi yogurt drinks.
Location: 1041 4th Avenue (map)
Hours: Seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The last restaurant on our list is located in the Southern part of San Diego but still serves up Punjab dishes from the Northern part of India. During the lunch hours, Urban India serves up a hot buffet. They also celebrate Happy Hour, when they offer $3 draft beers.
The entree menu is structured more like menus you might find at Thai restaurants. You can pick the sort of base you want and then select a protein to go with it. The meat entrees can include chicken, lamb, beef, shrimp or fish. Other dishes on the menu include goat, and there are, of course, plenty of vegetarian dishes. The fact that they serve beef makes then relatively unique among Indian eateries.
Lunch at Urban India: Butter Chicken and Lamb Vindaloo with Jasmine Rice. Pretty good but not the best I've had. I am glad that I got to have some good Indian food though during my trip however! I rate it as an 8/10. #FoodieJourney #Food #Foodie #Foodgasm #Foodgram #Foodporn #Foodblogger #UrbanIndia #Indian #Curry #SanDiego #Cali #California #ButterChicken #Gaslamp #Vindaloo #Lamb #JasmineRice
They do serve spiced chai teas here, as well as beers and wine. You can also enjoy a mango, sweet or masala lassi. There’s even a rose milkshake on the menu (a must try item). In addition to the common fried appetizers like samosa and pakora, you can find a number of tandoori grilled appetizers, such as jumbo shrimp in a tikki seasoning or lamb chops served with grilled vegetables. You certainly won’t feel hungry when you head home after a meal here!