Good Indian food can be hard to come by in San Diego, but thankfully there’s the Delhi Kitchen. While the restaurant’s strip mall location may not be as glamorous as a bustling downtown hotspot, this family-owned restaurant still manages to serve up affordable, authentic Indian cuisine. Vegetarians will delight in the delicious saag paneer – creamy spinach with nuggets of cheese, or the Aloo Gobi, a potato and cauliflower medley cooked with tomato and spices. Look past the spare, small space and the lack of formal dinner plates for a heartier meal, complete with friendly service that really seems to care. And if all you know of Indian food is the common lunchtime buffet, Delhi Kitchen offers that as well – but on Saturdays and Sundays, with an all-you-can-eat price tag under $10.
Cuisine Type: Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan
Most popular offering: Chicken tikka masala, tandoori
In Indian culture, it is quite common to forgo utensils altogether and eat with your hands. Many people rely on various styles of flatbreads to scoop up hearty curries and gravies. Cafe India provides nine types of bread for patrons to do just that—everything from mint naan and roti to stuffed breads such as onion kulcha.
They use the breads to spoon up vegetarian tikka masala, boneless chicken cooked with mango pastes or with housemade mixed pickles, and goat curry. Though for those who prefer utensils, those who order dishes such as mango ice cream or soup, or those who are possessed by the spirit of Emily Post, forks and spoons are available.
The cooks at Bombay Coast craft authentic Indian food, recreating the flavors they grew up with. Drawing on more than 20 years spent mastering Indian cuisine in Bombay and the U.S., the culinary team creates dishes entirely from their own recipes. Chicken can be cooked in creamy spinach curry or marinated in honey, then baked in a tandoor clay pot oven. Cooks stuff naan with ground turkey, simmer shrimp in creamy tomato sauce, and stir boneless Australian lamb into spicy curry. They cater to vegetarians and vegans with meatless and dairy-less eats such as yellow split lentils or garbanzo beans dusted with special spice blends. Complement feasts with mango lassis or imported Indian beers including King Fisher, named for the first person to bait fish with a cold brew.
Just off the 15 freeway on Activity Road in Mira Mesa, Punjabi Tandoor offers a taste of India at a great value. It’s hidden away in an industrial area of office suites, so there is plenty of available parking at any time of day. Chicken, lamb and vegetable curries are their hallmark, as well as their use of a traditional Indian tandoor. The most popular of their curry dishes is the Chicken Tikka Masala, a boneless piece of chicken breast, cooked in a clay oven and then marinated in a delectable curry sauce. These stews also pair nicely with their garlic naan or their paratha, an Indian bread often stuffed with potato, cauliflower or cheese. The portions are generous and the setting is casual, making it a favorite among locals.
Another glittering facet of the Monsoon Group helmed by brother-and-sister team Rakesh and Ashley Popat, Bombay delivers the same opulent, glowing atmosphere and authentic cuisine that have dazzled diners at sister restaurants Monsoon and Masala. Glistening chandeliers illuminate the 7,500-square-foot space, which provides an avenue for parties of up to 300 guests, and has hosted a number of corporate clients including Wells Fargo and Johnson & Johnson. Inside the dining room, a tranquil waterfall serves as an ethereal room divider and squirt-gun refilling station, as romantic amber light softly rains down from the ceiling to settle upon crisp white tablecloths.
Star of India hampers hunger with an authentic menu stocked with the rich flavors and exotic spices of the Subcontinent. Start the foodie festivities with an appetizer of onion bhaji, which features tearfully tempting slices of onion fried in chickpea batter ($8), or begin by shepherding your taste buds toward a pair of lamb samosas ($6) or a bevy of bread breeds that includes seven different types of naan. Tandoori chicken ($13) and tandoori shrimp ($22) are both marinated in yogurt, herbs, and spices before being cooked in a tandoor—a specialized clay oven kept at 800 degrees to match the temperature of the human mouth. Herbivores can veg out on channa masala, a mouth-watering mélange of garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and onions ($13), and fishivores can aim their scrimshaw dentures at fish vindaloo, which combines mahi-mahi with potatoes in a tongue-tazing sauce ($19). Each location possesses the flavor-customization technology to adjust its crave-worthy curries to individual specifications, ensuring that the menus are suited for everyone from unfazable fire eaters to mild-tongued spice sissies.