Southern-style vegetarian dosa or Northern chaat? Upscale sit-down spots or grab-and-go eateries? All about the curries, or there for the samosas?
In the Phoenix area, your Indian options are many. Here, we narrow them to 10.
Nandini Indian Cuisine1845 East Broadway Road, #101, Tempe
Classic northern Indian cooking, with its tandoori-style meats and thickly prepared, ghee-heavy curries, is the specialty at Nandini Indian Cuisine. The Punjabi-inflected menu includes house specialties like lamb boti kebabs: savory cubes of lamb marinated in spices, flash-cooked in the house tandoori oven, and served still-sizzling on a bed of peppers and onions. You'll also find an intensely spicy lamb vindaloo curry, as well as an excellent rendition of classic murgh makhani, otherwise known as butter chicken. It comes smothered in a creamy red sauce and scented with spicy notes of ginger and cumin.
Little India1813 East Baseline Road, #108, Tempe
Another restaurant focusing on the Northern Indian snacks called chaat is Little India. It's tucked into the back corner of an Indian market and requires you to fill out a menu checklist to place your order. There are options like pani-puri — fried hollow puri you fill with flavored water — and aloo tikki chaat, which features grilled potato patties smothered in yellow peas, yogurt, tamarind, cilantro, onions, and other spices. But don't skip the samosas. The triangular pillows enclose a wonderful filling of spiced potatoes and peas that only gets better when dipped in the side of tamarind chutney.
Woodlands Vegetarian South Indian Kitchen4980 West Ray Road, #10, Chandler
If you didn't order a dosai here, then you didn't do Woodlands right. Though this mostly undecorated spot in the middle of a Chandler strip mall might not gain any points on ambiance, the food, friendly service, and plentiful selection of dhosa (like the hot mysore masala or the cheesy paneer dosai) will surely have you coming back again. Plus, a complimentary chutney bar with pickled veggies, tamarind chutney, yogurt sauce, mint chutney, and coconut chutney makes for a new experience with every bite.
Khyber Halal Restaurant4030 North 24th Street
This central-Phoenix restaurant offers foods from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India all in one place. As far as the Indian options go, you'll see standard picks like tikka masala and paneer, the homemade Indian cheese. But many prefer to dig into a giant platter of goat biryani, a rice dish that features sizable pieces of tender goat meat and heavily spiced basmati rice. Khyber Halal is clearly a family-run operation, with the restaurant staffed by family members of all ages.
Hilal Grill638 North 40th Street
Formerly known as the Tahoora Grill, this neighborhood spot serves terrific Indian, Pakistani, and Afghani fare in an unassuming east-Phoenix dining room. Hilal Grill satisfies any cravings for familiar Indian restaurant staples, including classics like chicken tikka masala and butter chicken. Don't miss Indian and South Asian specialties like shrimp biryani cooked with fresh herbs and spices, or the beef chapli kabab, a Pashtun-style minced beef kebab served with fresh veggies and herbs.
Chennai Chettinaad Palace2814 West Bell Road
Though you can get all your favorite go-to dishes in this north Phoenix Indian joint, what truly sets Chennai apart is the cocktail menu. The flavored martinis and new twists on classic drinks have one thing in common — a heavy influence of Indian flavors such as mango, coconut, and rose that pair nicely with spicy dishes. Chennai also has extensive vegetarian options, including the chilli gobi, mulligatawny soup, and channa masala curry. The Chat Corner of the menu is also worth highlighting, especially the Bhel Poori.
Marigold Maison4720 East Cactus Road
You wouldn't be wrong to consider this restaurant a reincarnation of the original Bombay Spice Grill. Unlike its predecessor, however, Marigold Maison is a sit-down restaurant where you'll find a cozy dining room decorated with hanging lanterns and murals. On the menu, look forward to plenty of starters and shareable plates, including a section of street food and south Indian specialties. Skip the familiar stuff like hummus and go for something more exciting like samosa chaat. For entrees, the selection spans many types of regional specialties including dosai, tandoori fare, and a classic selection of curries.
India Oven1315 South Gilbert Road, Mesa
India Oven — which also operates as a banquet hall — (usually) offers lunch and dinner buffets, as well as traditional dining. Many enjoy the flavorful chicken tikka masala as well as the mild, creamy shrimp korma, which includes tender, plump shrimp swimming in a buttery sauce full of Indian spices. With a side of freshly baked naan, and more than a dozen vegetarian menu items, you'll be in for a satisfying meal.
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The Dhaba1872 Apache Boulevard, Tempe
Two words: lamb vindaloo. Sure, The Dhaba masters a playful balance of classy dining and Punjabi street food where you can have your pick of curries, puris, and pakoras, but that spicy, hearty lamb vindaloo is what brings in the regulars. Combine that with other house specialties and the upscale, ornate dining area. If you're feeling confident, you can even go next door to India Plaza's market to get some spices and other ingredients to try your hand at Dhaba's dishes at home.
New AZ India Gate4939 West Ray Road, #1, Chandler
New India Gate has won a cult following since opening in Chandler in 2016. Owners and brothers, Pardip and Gopi Singh, oversee the 120-seat space with maroon tablecloths and minimalist décor. The brothers' mom, Sukhwinder Kaur, is New India Gate's chef. Though the menu is thorough, the lassi fresh and tangy, and the buffet (normally) a gold mine, the best part of New AZ India Gate may be the soft, garlicky, complimentary naan bread.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on March 24, 2014. It was updated on August 26, 2020. See what Valley restaurants are offering takeout, delivery, and dine-in services. Find Indian cuisine and much more Phoenix-area eateries in our Phoenix Restaurant Directory.