The Absolute Best Indian Restaurants In The US

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When you're in the mood for intense flavors, fragrant aromas, and tantalizing spices, Indian food checks those boxes. The large country is home to an assortment of cuisines, each with its own regional specialties. Unfortunately, Madhur Jaffrey and Priya Krishna, two well respected Indian cookbook writers, tell CNBC that typical Indian food with its local distinctions is rarely showcased outside the country and instead, many recipes are mild hybrids. So while you may feel you've covered with Indian cuisine by eating take-out chicken tikka masala with naan bread and samosas, there are endless dishes to discover.

According to the South Asian American Digital Archive, Indian food in the United States was already the subject of curiosity a century ago due to an influx of immigrants. Although the number of Indian restaurants in the USA has yet to explode, the 5,000 or so options provide a taste of the cuisine (via CNBC). It's well worth it to let yourself be surprised by authentic Indian cuisine, which Jaffrey remarks shines due to "the magic of spices."

Before you try your hand at some recipes in the kitchen, we recommend tasting the true flavors of Indian food at some of the absolute best spots in the country. Whether they are fine dining restaurants with Michelin stars or small family-owned eateries with humble beginnings, your taste buds will recognize the undeniably heavenly dishes.

Rasika - Washington, D.C.

Indian food might not typically be associated with fine dining, but Rasika certainly fits into this category. With two locations in the nation's capital, the Indian restaurant has welcomed its fair share of big names, including Barack Obama on his birthday (twice!), the Clintons, and Jeff Bezos, The Economic Times reports. And with a chef like Vikram Sunderam, it's no surprise. Sunderam has regularly been nominated by the James Beard Foundation and even received the Best Chef Mid-Atlantic James Beard Award in 2014. Plus, he's happy to share countless tips and recipes in his cookbook "Rasika: Flavors of India."

The Michelin Guide recognizes Rasika's commitment to sustainable gastronomy, and together with his enticing dishes, it's a winning combination. Sharing plates to try a wider assortment is encouraged, and once you see the menu options you won't be able to do otherwise. A selection of seafood, meat, and vegetarian items are available, and classics like chicken tikka masala are interspersed with creative twists such as a truffle naan or duck vindaloo. Among the top-rated dishes is palak chaat (fried spinach with yogurt, tamarind, and date chutney), which gets the thumbs up from Condé Nast Traveler and Bon Appétit. If you're in the mood for fish (it's all responsibly sourced here), the black cod with dill, honey, anise, and red wine vinegar is another showstopper.

Junoon - New York City

For a gastronomical experience to wow your taste buds, Junoon in New York City is a definite bet. Since opening in 2010, the restaurant has consistently received a Michelin star for its fine cuisine. The modern Indian establishment is also featured on the American Food Guild's list of Best Wine and Dine Restaurants in America.

The fine balance at Junoon, "French service, in the family, Indian style," as noted by waitstaff attending to New York Magazine reviewers, sets the scene for the overall experience. Whether you choose the prix fixe lunch, an à la carte selection, or opt for a luxurious multi-course tasting menu, get ready for an unforgettable meal. If you want to bring those enticing flavors home, don't miss the restaurant's marketplace.

Chef Akshay Bhardwaj tells Eater, "We are not trying to play it safe," and this novelty is evident in the dishes. Try the tandoori octopus which is slow-grilled for three hours with spices or the ghost chile murgh tikka (tandoori chicken thighs with a pistachio crumble and grape chutney) for a kick of heat. Carb lovers will love the selection of breads on Junoon's menu, and if you want to step outside the box, order the brain toast (goat brain on brioche with jalapeño and pomegranate). Don't forget to end the night with dessert; the assortment of kulfi pops (frozen dairy treats) is the perfect way to freshen up your palate.

Adda - Long Island City, New York

Dream team Roni Mazumdar and Chintan Pandya are the geniuses behind Adda, a Long Island City restaurant that translates to "a place where people hang out." And once you get a taste of the food, you'll certainly want to stick around. The highly acclaimed eatery has been recognized by countless publications including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, The New York Times, and New York Magazine. Chef Pandya was named a New York Rising Star Chef by StarChefs in 2019, and his dedication to authentic dishes unfamiliar to many a Western palate is at the heart of the restaurant's success.

Adda's menu is categorized into snacks (labeled with a warning that they are highly addictive), grilled items, curries and biryanis, and a variety of breads. Condé Nast Traveler suggests trying the dahi batata puri: crispy spherical shells stuffed with potato, tamarind and mint chutney, and yogurt. The lucknowi dum biryani, a rice dish with tender goat meat and fragrant saffron, is a showstopper with a unique presentation that requires cutting into a flatbread top. If you're ready for something distinct, try the bheja fry: goat brains seasoned with ginger, chilis, red onion, and pao. For those still eager to play it safe, Adda serves a zingy, flavor-packed rendition of butter chicken. Be sure to arrive with an appetite.

Dhamaka - New York City

Described as "The other side of India," Dhamaka is the perfect place to fill up on authentic bites. Among endless accolades, in 2021 the eatery made it onto The New York Times' lists of 50 exciting restaurants in the U.S. and the top 10 restaurants in NYC, and named one of Esquire's 40 best new restaurants in America. The owner and chef-owner duo Roni Mazumdar and Chintan Pandya have already proven to be a winning team at Adda (via Eater). At Dhamaka, expect dishes that will surprise tamer palates, displaying a refined balance that makes them as tempting as those with more familiar ingredients. Mazumdar and Pandya tell National Geographic Traveller that their goal is to share the diversity of Indian cuisine with a focus on fresh ingredients and regional fare.

A prime example is gurda kapoora, goat kidney and testicle with red onion and pao, which Eater praises for its nuanced flavors and textures. Although the menu veers towards extremely spicy, items including the tabak maaz (Kashmiri lamb ribs with fennel and spices) and the semolina-crusted pomfret fish are milder. If you want to go all out and have the flashy budget to match, Robb Report recommends pre-ordering the whole rabbit ($190), a Rajasthani meal that is only served once a night. Starting with a two-day yogurt and spice marinade, the rabbit is slow-cooked in a clay pot with aromatics producing the tenderest meat you could imagine. Served with potatoes, bread, rice, and lentil, this is a dish to share and savor.

Rasa - Burlingame, California

The prestigious Michelin Guide awarded Rasa with one star, highlighting the restaurant's quality, which is worthy of a visit to its Bay Area location. South Indian food is at its best here, with intense flavors and an unapologetic heat factor. Exceptional ingredients delightfully combined are the highlight, in dishes such as the prawn chutney with cucumbers or pumpkin kofta and fenugreek curry. Seasonal produce is another key to the fresh flavors, as evidenced by the seasonal vegetable curry, uthappam (a flatbread with toppings), and the poriyal (fried seasonal vegetables).

However, chef Vijay Kumar tells The Mercury News that the Bombay sliders are a definite mainstay amidst seasonally fluctuating menu items. The spiced potato fritters on soft buns are enhanced with tamarind and mint chutney, elevating the fresh flavors for the perfect bite. If you're eager to start your day with vibrant Indian flavors, be sure to reserve a table for the brunch service. Plenty of the dinner favorites can be ordered, as well as breakfast dishes like the egg curry or idli (steamed rice cakes with chutneys and stews). Save some room for dessert — the Michelin Guide describes the cardamom brûlée as "dizzyingly delicious."

Saravanaa Bhavan - Nationwide

Great restaurant chains reach success by consistently serving delicious food, and Saravanaa Bhavan is no different. The international restaurant chain has 81 locations outside of India, serving up quality vegetarian meals on a daily basis. The team behind the endeavor is certainly doing something right since the first restaurant opened in 1981. Select among hundreds of flavor-packed dishes at one of the American locations in New Jersey, New York, California, or Texas. Both excellent food and service are at the heart of the enterprise, and on-site dining, take-out, delivery, and catering are all available.

A wide assortment of appetizers, dosas (thin crispy crepes), uthappams, and breads are on offer, or try one of the thalis — a mixed platter highlighting an array of flavors, perfect for when you can't settle on an item from the extensive menu. With such appetizing options, meat-eaters won't even realize the restaurant is fully vegetarian. Thrifty diners will love the affordable prices, which make it the ideal place to feast on a variety of items with a group. If you have a sweet tooth, save some room for a quintessentially sugary Indian treat such as badam halwa (ground almond cooked with honey and butter) or gulab jamun (milk and cheese balls soaked in syrup and rose water). For a tasty meal without any airs, be sure to visit Saravanaa Bhavan.

Ghee - Kendall, Florida

Located on the outskirts of Miami in Kendall, Ghee has graced Eater's list of top restaurants to visit in winter 2022, thanks to the delicious flavors and fresh menu items. Indeed, the produce is as fresh as it gets, with most of it grown on chef Niven Patel's farm in Homestead, Florida. Apart from top-notch ingredients, the menu showcases a variety of dishes that highlight Patel's talent. The chef was awarded best new chef by Food & Wine in 2020, who commends his dedication to quality ingredients as the basis of every dish. Patel tells the outlet, "Everything [on the menu] is simple but flavorful," a true testament that he allows the components to speak for themselves.

If you can't choose what to order, do yourself a favor and opt for the family-style tasting menu, a three-course affair that will give you an overview of Ghee's menu. Be sure to add on the lamb neck which is smoked and served with a tomato, cardamom, and black-eyed pea broth. The Sun-Sentinel recommends ordering the ghost pepper cheddar naan for a spicy cheesy carb option reminiscent of pizza. For seafood lovers, local fish is marinated with turmeric and cooked in a zesty coconut curry sauce. Familiar offerings like chicken tikka masala are flavorful renditions of classics, whereas a yellowfin tuna bhel (a combination of puffed rice, avocado, cilantro, and tuna) hints at a creative interplay of cuisines.

Dosa - Oakland

The restaurant industry has faced overwhelming challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and the capacity to pivot has been crucial. While Dosa's San Francisco location has closed its doors, a takeout version of the popular menu was launched and ready-made meals are being sold at Whole Foods. Co-owner Anjan Mitra tells The San Francisco Chronicle that the current model is working for now, as their brick-and-mortar establishment requires a constant influx of customers to maintain the glitz. While you won't be able to enjoy the sophisticated restaurant for the time being, you can still savor the familiar flavors from dosa by Dosa in Oakland, a casual counter-service location that offers outdoor seating as well.

Dosas certainly feature prominently on the menu, with meat and vegetarian choices as well as a spicy habanero mango option for those who like some heat. True to its Californian location, you can order salads with protein add-ins such as tandoori chicken or lamb kebabs. Snacks, wraps, and rice bowls are especially convenient for take-out, and the breakfast menu is a great way to start your day — you might have a hard time picking between stuffed naan bread and an egg dosa. To round it out, the refreshing drinks include non-alcoholic options like a spicy tamarind lassi and freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, or try one of the appropriately named "spice route cocktails" such as a Kerala Old Fashioned: coconut washed rum, saffron bitters, mace, jaggery, and star anise.

Lehja - Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia is home to one of the top Indian restaurants in the area, with James Beard Award semi-finalist chef Sandeep "Sunny" Baweja in the kitchen. While Lehja's mall location might make you wary at first, stay for a meal and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Style Weekly points out the high-quality cuisine at Lehja, noting that the food goes well beyond "Americanized" Indian fare. Lehja's menu features traditional dishes with creative twists, such as the Chesapeake Bay blue crabs seasoned with ginger, turmeric, pink Tellicherry pepper, scallions, and asparagus.

The Washingtonian highlights the eatery as one of the best in the city, praising the lamb vindaloo and the Kerala-inspired seafood curry. Other highly recommended items include the chaat du jour, an ever-changing selection of Indian street food snacks. Forbes describes the duck à la Pondicherry as a favorite — tender pulled meat with fenugreek, cumin, curry leaves, garlic, and onions. Classics such as sag paneer (spinach and cheese) and twists such as the firecracker chicken tikka (marinated in ghost peppers) or the surf & turf curry make the menu a standout for newbies and longtime lovers of Indian cuisine. A wide assortment of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options simplify the task of finding a dish for everyone at the table. Be sure to order a variety of breads and the cooling homemade kulfi to seal the meal. And if you can't get enough? Lehja's even serves weekend brunch.

Bombay Palace - Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills might not be the first place you would think to go for Indian food, but Bombay Palace has been going strong since 1985. It fits right into the glitzy neighborhood, with a marble bar, cozy nooks, and high ceilings, according to Gayot. So, if you're ready for a night out on the town and craving fragrant spices, Bombay Palace is the place to be.

The eatery highlights Northern Indian cuisine, with à la carte dining options or a royal banquet menu if you're ready to splurge. From traditional dishes prepared in a tandoor oven to Western favorites like chicken tikka masala and butter chicken, it's not hard to be tempted by the menu. Gayot recommends the seafood vindaloo if you can take the heat, and vegetarians will be pleased to see an extensive selection of dishes suiting their needs. Mop up excess sauce with tandoor-baked bread, and for dessert, you can't go wrong with a creamy pistachio kulfi.

Taj Campton Place - San Francisco

With the number of Michelin-starred Indian restaurants in the U.S., it's a wonder that the cuisine isn't regularly associated with fine dining. Once you have a meal at San Francisco's Campton Place restaurant at the luxurious Taj hotel, you'll understand why the Michelin Guide awarded it with two stars, praising its "excellent cooking, worthy of a detour." Chef Srijith Gopinathan is highly acclaimed for his combination of Californian and Indian cuisine and a firm dedication to organic, local, and seasonal ingredients. Gopinathan grew up in Southern India, learning to prepare the regional specialties first hand before moving to the U.S. and attending the Culinary Institute of America (via Forbes Travel Guide).

Forbes showers Campton Place with accolades, from the refined décor and polished service to the innovative flavors on the plate. Evening dining is centered around a tasting menu; opt for the Spice Route for the full experience. A vegetarian option is available, and part of the experience is the surprise element as every dish arrives at the table. Among the highlights, Michelin Guide describes a curry with poached lobster inspired by Gopinathan's family recipe, and crispy dosa served with scallops. There's nothing predictable about the menu and foodies will love the journey. 

Chai Pani - Asheville, North Carolina

Located in Asheville, North Carolina (with another outpost in Georgia), Chai Pani is the place to go for a comforting and creative dining experience. The name translates to tea and water, which hints at the laidback street food vibe you can expect. Thanks to five-time James Beard award-nominated chef Meherwan Irani, the food is definitely a step up from any old snack you might grab on a street corner. The New York Times named it among the country's top 50 favorite restaurants in 2021, and other publications including Condé Nast Traveler have been equally impressed.

Besides all of the public praise, the vibrant fresh zingy flavors are the winning factors that will make Chai Pani your favorite spot. An eclectic take on Indian flavors is evident — follow GQ's advice and order a Sloppy Jai (spiced minced lamb with warm spices), tandoori chicken wings, or try the Bombay chili cheese fries for an East meets West bite. Bon Appétit's go-to order is the dahi sev papdi, which they describe as a mashed potato and nacho hybrid. Whether you order an assortment of chaats (snacks) or a couple of naan wraps, your taste buds will be undoubtedly satisfied. Did we mention it's incredibly affordable?

Ganesh Temple Canteen - New York City

This isn't a trendy foodie take on a canteen; Ganesh Temple Canteen is, in fact, a cafeteria inside a Hindu temple in Queens, New York. According to New York Magazine, the staff is made up of volunteers, eager to dish out the tasty (and inexpensive) bites. The Temple Canteen notes that since 1993 they have been preparing food as offerings to the Gods, eventually extending the delicious flavors to people itching for a taste of the South Indian cuisine. All of the countless options are vegetarian, but you won't be missing out — even self-proclaimed meat lover Anthony Bourdain visited the establishment and gave it the thumbs up (via Edible Queens).

Traditional bites such as idli, dosas, upma, and uthapams are prominent on the Canteen menu, and weekend specials including a mixed thali platter are also on offer. With such a lengthy selection and The Infatuation's assertion that "you won't find a better dosa in town," ordering at least one dosa is a must. If you're looking for "atomic flavor" as per New York Magazine, the Pondicherry masala dosa with potato, chutney, onion, chili, and spices is the way to go. For those eager to bring the rich flavors home, the Temple Canteen does take-out and delivery. You can order snacks and sweets on their online store from anywhere in the U.S.

Kalachandjis - Dallas

The food has got to be great at Kalachandjis, the oldest vegetarian buffet in Dallas going on 40 years. All of the dishes are prepared with high-quality ingredients, and the restaurant follows the Ayurvedic principles of feeding the body, mind, and soul. The majority of the items on the menu are vegan, and the restaurant even avoids using onion or garlic, an element of certain Ayurvedic diets. Unfortunately, buffets have not been a winning equation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and manager Danny Thomas tells The Dallas Morning News that significant adjustments to the set-up have been made. Although it is not currently a self-service affair, customers can still savor the fluctuating menu.

The options are a mix and match and include decidedly non-Indian items such as lasagna and jambalaya (via Culture Map). Among the Indian favorites on the menu, pakoras (spicy chickpea flour vegetable fritters) are always a good choice. For a nourishing soup be sure to order the dal and pair it with whole grains for a nutritious high-protein vegan meal. You won't want to miss Kalachandjis' aromatic warm cinnamon and raisin bread — you might even have to take a loaf home. Wash it all down with a glass of tamarind tea, a sweet and sour drink that will refresh your palate.

Viks Chaat - Berkeley

What started as a food counter tucked away and meant to attract retail customers has since grown to accommodate its success. Viks Chaat in Berkeley, California remains a casual affair in a repurposed warehouse, but the food is the main focus. Lunch is where it's at, and an ever-changing menu makes it impossible to be bored. According to their website, meals "are served as they would be in an Indian home," which adds to the appeal of the experience. Mixed plates, biryani, and dosas, are all available. For a true festival of flavor and textures, be sure to try a variety of colorful chaats (snacks). Eater recommends following the masses and getting an order of cholle bhature, which the restaurant menu describes as "the big puffy thing." Meat, fish, and plenty of vegetarian options ensure that everyone will leave well-fed.

The San Francisco Chronicle named the restaurant among the Bay Area's top 100 in 2017, and it has received overwhelming praise from dozens of publications including the Michelin Guide, Eater, and The New York Times. Don't take their word however, and be sure to get a taste of it yourself. Viks Chaat can accommodate early dinner diners but it closes by 7:30 p.m., so plan ahead to properly savor your meal — that includes the traditional selection of sweets.

Indian Accent - New York City

You'll want to head to Indian Accent with an appetite (and a padded wallet) to enjoy the inventive selection of dishes. Chef Manish Mehrotra originally opened the fine-dining institution in New Delhi, and success followed him to London and New York City. While the London location is no longer open, New Yorkers continues to savor the dazzling array of flavors coming out of Mehrotra's kitchen. For the full experience, try the tasting menu, which includes vegetarian delights that will please all.

New York Magazine recommends the soy keema with a quail egg, a creative variation on a dish typically made with minced lamb. An assortment of breads are perfect for soaking up the sauces or to enjoy on their own — wild mushroom and truffle butter or saag paneer with chili butter are some top picks. Jackfruit makes a few appearances on the menu as an alternative to pulled pork and crisped up as a main. Meanwhile, entrees like the tandoori salmon and beef tenderloin with fenugreek are the ideal balance of traditional and cosmopolitan flavors. For a meal highlighting Indian fragrances and ingredients with unpredictable and international twists, nab yourself a reservation at Indian Accent.

Spice Room - Denver

Denver, Colorado is home to another delicious spot to get your fix of Indian food. Whether you dine in or take it to go, Spice Room has you covered with a wide selection of tasty options. The team is made up of Indian and Nepali chefs who highlight the best features of the overlapping cuisines. Homemade dishes are inspired by family recipes and enhanced with fresh ingredients and directly sourced spices, making every meal at Spice Room a heavenly affair.

The restaurant encourages sharing a variety of plates, and that's the only way you'll be able to choose what to order from the enticing menu. A wide range of vegan and vegetarian options make it easy to accommodate different diets, and no one will have to miss out on flavor. Menu favorites include the samosa chaat (samosas with a tamarind mint chutney served with chickpeas) or the cheese and jalapeño bread if you're looking to infuse your meal with a kick. The Shahi paneer translates to royal paneer, and this cheese curry certainly delivers. Meals can be catered to your spice tolerance, but no matter what you order, the flavor will be 100%.

Bollywood Theater - Portland, Oregon

Expect a feast of flavors at Bollywood Theater in Portland, Oregon. With two locations, the restaurant has been a favorite thanks to its menu showcasing traditional specialties in a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere. Bon Appétit notes that chef Troy MacLarty previously worked at Chez Panisse, a highly acclaimed Berkeley restaurant known for its seasonal dishes. His extensive experience and creative flair are evident in the menu at Bollywood Theater, which is ideal for anyone with a taste for good food.

The Infatuation recommends going the sharing route, and it's really the best way to get the most out of your dining experience. Try some of the snacks to start; the kati rolls (chicken or paneer, egg, chutney, and pickled vegetables wrapped with flatbread) or bhel puri (potato, mango, peanuts, with crispy add-ins) are popular favorites. Fill up with pork vindaloo or a grilled tikka bowl and order an Indian-inspired cocktail or a mango lassi to wash it all down. If they're available, follow Bon Appétit's advice and go home with a set of Bollywood Theater's spices, a trio of flavors from Kerala.