Best Restaurants

The 10 Restaurants You Need to Hit Up on Your Next Little India Food Crawl

From Indian and Pakistani buffets, snack shops, and mom-and-pop dining outposts, to the occasional Afghan and South American surprise, Little India has it all.

By Timothy Malcolm April 25, 2019 Published in the May 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Inside a triangle bounded by I-59, the Westpark Tollway, and the plazas along Hillcroft Street lies this exciting labyrinth of foodie revelations, from Indian and Pakistani buffets, snack shops, and mom-and-pop dining outposts, to the occasional Afghan and South American surprise. Here’s a guide for your next food crawl.

Bombay Sweets

Load up at the Indian buffet if you’d like, but in our book the chaat are too good to pass up. Among these street food–style snacks, we especially love the dahi wada, lentil dumplings sunk in a dazzling sea of tangy yogurt and spiced tamarind and coriander chutneys; and the kachori, the bulbous crisps called puri stuffed with potatoes, chickpeas, yogurt, chutneys, and crunchy noodles.

Busy Boy Sandwiches

The worthy Philly cheesesteak at this super-friendly counter-service spot doesn’t try to copy the original; instead it lets its freshly chopped, halal sirloin do the talking with melted American, cheddar, and pepper jack cheeses. Add in some homemade garlic mayonnaise for a kick. The crispy chicken sandwich with lettuce and mayo inside a pressed sub roll is also tasty.

Image: Jenn Duncan


With endorsements from Andrew Zimmern and the late Anthony Bourdain, among many, many others, chef Kaiser Lashkari’s casual spot for Indian, Pakistani, and American fusion is a must-visit. The tender mutton biryani earns deserved praise, as does the garlic naan. But save room for dessert: Our favorite is the almond custard, a light and velvety version of flan.  

The Horse and The Turtle

On the ground level of an office building off 59, you’ll find this somewhat secret, friendly café serving up pizza and pasta alongside Ecuadorian fare. We can’t get enough of the homemade empanadas, buttery dough with beef, chicken, spinach-and-cheese, or ham-and-cheese fillings. At lunch the must-order is a traditional Ecuadorian choripán—smoky grilled sausage in a baguette served with homemade chimichurri.

Hot Breads

This popular spot specializes in Indian-inspired sandwiches, lite bites, and pastries—think buttery, chicken tikka–filled croissants, flaky goat keema puffs, and oh-so-rich malai chicken quiches. There’s also delicious cakes—black forest, pistachio, and strawberry among them.

Image: Alice Levitt

Kwality Ice Cream

A New York–based chain with locations throughout Texas, this bright little parlor serves up Indian ice cream that is smooth and just creamy enough and comes in tasty flavors such as sitaphal (apple) and fennel-and-cardamom. Get it in a cup topped with the soft, doughy milk spheres called gulab jamun, in a cone, or in a falooda, the milk-based drink with basil seeds and vermicelli noodles.

Masala Munchies

This tiny counter-service spot makes tasty vegetarian wraps and snacks. Standouts include the Masala Munchie Roll, gently spiced potatoes and onions inside a paratha; and the khandvi, a sweet-savory wrap filled with yellow lentils, coconut, ginger, and chiles, topped with sesame seeds. On your way out, pick up bags of masala popcorn and the homemade rice-flour bites called chakri.

Mezban Restaurant & Caterers

This contemporary dining room serves up quality Pakistani fare at daily lunch and dinner buffets. If it’s on offer, get the murgh hara masala—translation: green chicken—thin slices of breast meat with chiles, garlic, onions, cilantro, and yogurt. The creamy beef haleem and the homemade roti are also excellent. Save room for a bowl of kheer, or sweet rice pudding.

Image: Alice Levitt

Saffron Kabob House

Arrive early to this bright, comfortable Afghan restaurant on the second level of The Plaza at Hillcroft and Harwin, because the mantoo often runs out, and that dish—delicate steamed dumplings filled with ground beef, onions, and herbs, then finished with meat sauce and yogurt—is outstanding. Among the generous kebab plates, our favorite is the juicy, lightly spiced chicken.

Sai Bhog

This quiet, family-run establishment, open since summer 2018, specializes in vegetarian Indian delights, from snackable dosa (we recommend the tingly paneer version) to the crispy spiced chickpea fritters called masala vada. Whatever you do, be sure to order the vegetable korma, perfectly cooked carrots and eggplant laced with coconut cream and chiles.  

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