You don't have to look far to find great Indian food. There are dozens of restaurants around the Valley that specialize in a range of Indian cooking styles, whether you're craving great Southern-style vegetarian dosa or Northern chaat. With a variety of options — including buffets, upscale sit-down spots, and even grab-and-go eateries — the Indian joints around metro Phoenix bring spicy, aromatic, and mouthwatering curries, mixed grills, and more. The options are many. Here, we narrow them to our 10 favorites.
Nandini Indian Cuisine
1845 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 in Tempe. This modest restaurant offers a budget-friendly lunch buffet seven days a week. At it, you can fill up on everything from chicken tikka to palak paneer and bottomless mugs of chai tea. But we recommend coming during the evening dinner service, when you'll have your pick of the restaurant's expansive, Punjabi-inflected menu, including 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.
2043 South Alma School Road, Mesa
Lotus Deli is a small Indian restaurant located inside the Mesa location of Lotus Market, a South Asian grocery store with two locations in the Valley. The specialty at Lotus Deli is Indian street food, with a focus on chaat – the wildly diverse, savory snacks eaten across the Indian subcontinent. Highlights include samosa chaat, which sees the crispy potatoes-and-peas pastry served with a rich, lightly spicy chickpea curry. Aloo tiki, another chaat, perfectly encapsulates the bold flavors of the popular street food. The chaat, layered with potatoes, chickpeas, and mint sauce, is equal parts savory, tangy, sweet, and spicy.
1813 East Baseline Road, #108, Tempe
Another of the few restaurants in metro Phoenix focusing on the Northern Indian snacks called chaat is Little India in Tempe. This eatery serves an extensive selection of the stuff. Little India is 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 no matter what you order, 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 Kitchen
4980 West Ray Road, #10, Chandler
As families pack in and out of this modest vegetarian Indian restaurant, you'll quickly notice that if you didn't order a dosai, 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 Restaurant
4030 North 24th Street
If there's one thing this central Phoenix restaurant has going for it — besides the good food — it's that you can have 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. We 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. We also love the fact that Khyber Halal is clearly a family-run operation, with the restaurant staffed by family members of all ages.
638 North 40th Street
Formerly known as the Tahoora Grill, this neighborhood spot serves terrific Indian, Pakistani, and Afghani fare in an unassuming east side 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. If you're not sure what to order, swing by the restaurant's popular all-day Sunday buffet, which lets you sample from around the menu.
Chennai Chettinaad Palace
2814 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 bartender Anthony Felsianes' 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. Plus, at $6 per drink, Felsianes' cocktail concoctions are some of the most affordable drinks around.
4720 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 and service that's both courteous and prompt. 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 regional specialties including dosai, tandoori fare, and a classic selection of curries.
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5204, 1315 South Gilbert Road, Mesa
India Oven has been serving an extensive menu of Indian specialties for years. The restaurant — which also operates as a banquet hall — offers lunch and dinner buffets, as well as traditional dining. And with more than a dozen vegetarian menu items, there's likely to be something for everyone. We enjoy the flavorful chicken tikka masala as well as the mild, creamy shrimp korma, which features tender, plump shrimp swimming in a buttery sauce full of Indian spices. With a side of freshly baked naan, you'll be in for a satisfying meal. It's just a bonus that the service at this Mesa spot is always friendly and fast.
1872 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 many curries, puris, and pakoras, but that spicy, hearty lamb vindaloo is what made us regulars when we first tried it years ago. Combine that with other house specialties and the upscale, ornate dining area with fancy copper cups and plates and you have an Indian dining option perfect for a fancy date night. 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.