Masala dosa and dahi puri at Shri Balaji Bhavan.

Houston's Mahatma Gandhi District—also called "Little India," or simply "Hillcroft" for the main thoroughfare that runs through the area—is home to the city's largest concentration of Indian and Pakistani restaurants, grocery stores, jewelers, clothing shops, and other businesses. Little India is roughly bounded by Highway 59 to the south and Westpark Tollway to the north; the intersection of Hillcroft and Harwin is considered the heart of the district. Below are our favorite cafes, chaat houses, and sweets shops to visit whether you're a first-timer or a veteran diner.

Bismillah Cafe

Indian/Pakistani
At this cheerful chaat house, traditional Pakistani snacks such as samosas and dahi puri keep company alongside more modern dishes, many with an American flair. Owner Inam Moghul makes beef sliders seasoned with garam masala, chicken wings coated in an ultra-hot “ten spice” blend, and even fast food–inspired “animal-style” french fries covered in plenty of cheese and grilled onions. 

Biryani Pot

Indian/Pakistani
On weekends, you’ll find a line at Biryani Pot almost as long as the ones outside Killen’s Barbecue and The Breakfast Klub. Folks come here for the authentic Hyderabadi food, which features plenty of meat and long-grain basmati rice, slow-cooked and expertly seasoned with such traditional Hyderabadi ingredients as dry coconut, tamarind, and red chiles. Park behind the building, not in front, and come on weeknights if you don’t want to wait.

Himalaya

Indian/Pakistani
Kaiser Lashkari might be the most famous restaurateur in Little India—for his garrulous personality, his signature office desk in the middle of the restaurant, and his intensely spiced Pakistani and Indian dishes. Favorites include the meaty lamb shank and the Punjabi delicacy dal fry: lentils cooked in clarified butter and an aromatic curry blend. To cool off Himalaya’s hot dishes, don’t forget to bring your own beer or wine.

London Sizzler

Indian/Pakistani
Part pub, part restaurant, this is where you’ll find a blend of British and Indian expats enjoying cricket matches and pints of Boddingtons over meals of British-Indian favorites such as chicken tikka and tandoori dishes, especially heavenly naan from the restaurant’s big oven. The menu also nods to its Texas location with dishes like chicken tikka-topped Bombay Nachos and spicy Jeera Wings marinated in cumin and garlic.

 

Gulab jamun, chocolate burfi, and chiena julie from Raja Sweets.

Raja Sweets

Indian/Pakistani
The pioneering Yogi Gahunia opened this cafeteria-style restaurant, one of the oldest in Little India, back in 1985, when only a handful of Indian businesses dotted the landscape along Hillcroft. Though Yogi passed away in 2002, his wife and daughter still run the restaurant to his specifications, serving large portions of filling Indian favorites for very little cash. Don’t miss the excellent pakoras and samosas, and be sure to get some of Raja’s famous cherry-topped chiena julie for dessert.  

Shiv Sagar

Indian/Pakistani
Head straight to the counter at Shiv Sagar and begin plotting your all-vegetarian feast while you wait in the swiftly moving line. The giant, disc-shaped dosas and overflowing dahi puri here are our favorite in Little India, and the samosas carry a kick of heat often missing elsewhere. A sweet mango lassi is all you’ll need for dessert. Sister restaurant Sagar, just down Hillcroft, carries an expanded selection of Indo-Chinese dishes such as Hakka noodles on its vegetarian buffet.

Shri Balaji Bhavan

Indian/Pakistani
Like Shiv Sagar, this family-run chaat house specializes in vegetarian cuisine from southern India. Lines get long at lunch, but that gives you plenty of time to peruse the long menu and marvel at the low, low prices. We like the thalis—the Indian version of a sampler platter—and the vast selection of rices, especially the masala chile and tamarind varieties.

Udipi

Indian/Pakistani
This Houston-based chain also has locations in Katy and Sugar Land, but it’s the Little India one we like best. The vegetarian menu contains a few Western dishes (an ice cream milkshake for dessert?), but we prefer the southern Indian standards: vegetable pullav, which pairs seasoned rice pilaf with veggies, dried fruit, and aromatic spices, and the outstanding roti, fluffy flatbread that should be ordered with every single dish.

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