Whether you're in the mood for abig plate of homey biryani or some unique fried chicken, or you have a hankering for puri, there's an Indian restaurant or eatery for you. Houston has a wealth of terrific options, and these are some of our absolute favorites.
Aga’s reputation precedes itself: chances are, you loved their food before actually dining at their Wilcrest Drive location. Located smack-dab in the middle of a conventional strip mall, Aga’s Restaurant & Catery is a catering fan-favorite for large gatherings, celebrations, and more. This Indo-Pak restaurant and banquet hall has a wide-ranging menu (with pictures!), offers top-rated service, and consistently serves some of the best traditional Indian and Pakistani dishes in the Greater Houston area. Aga’s goat chops and various vindaloo dishes are especially beloved, but you can’t go wrong with anything at this Indian-Pakistani mainstay.
Load up at the Indian buffet if you’d like, but in our book, the chaat is too good to pass up. Among these street food–style snacks, we especially love the dahi vada, 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.
Da Gama canteen might be home to the most fascinating fusion cuisine out of all of Houston’s newest Indian restaurants. Opened in 2021 at The M-K-T in the Heights, this eatery encompasses the tastes of Goa, a former Portuguese-Indian territory, with a Bayou City spin. Da Gama’s effortlessly stylish space does triple duty, serving coffee, chai, and baked goods on their wood-paneled patio most mornings. Then, the lunchtime hours bring out an assortment of curries, along with dishes like grilled cheese infused with green chili chutney and Portuguese salted cod fritters served with oregano chutney. You’ll want to stick around for social hour and dinner, too: Da Gama’s rotating happy hour menu features unique craft cocktails and light bites, and the dinner menu boasts an assortment of vegetarian dishes, seafood, curries, and much more.
Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays are vegan-only days at this fully vegetarian Indian buffet that’s gone carry-out-only because of Covid. The dishes on offer change daily, but the takeout plates tend to cover a lot of ground—basmati rice; curry with vegetables; scrambled tofu (which really does taste like eggs) or barbecue tofu; chana masala; roti; and a small dessert (delicious chocolate cake, mango or strawberry rice pudding). You can add samosas, vegan brownies, and more à la carte items to your order too.
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 super-crispy and masala-spiced fried chicken is a must, as are the tender mutton biryani, saag paneer, chicken in green curry, and garlic naan (we could go on). But save room for dessert: Our favorite is the almond custard, a light and velvety version of flan.
For a sampling of a variety of Indian flavors and mainstays, try India’s Restaurant for lunch. India’s lunch buffet is perfect for both the uninitiated to Indian cuisine and connoisseurs of tandoor oven classics like tandoori chicken and fresh naan. Each day from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 19 hot and cold dishes are served at India’s buffet, including salads, vegetable sides, and curries. India’s dinner options are sure to delight, too, from seafood specialties and delicious tandoori dishes to vegetarian and vegan meals as well.
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 it comes in tasty flavors such as sitaphal (apple) and fennel-and-cardamom. Get it in a cup that's topped with soft, doughy milk spheres called gulab jamun, in a cone, or in a falooda, the milk-based drink with basil seeds and vermicelli noodles.
Maharaja Bhog, located just off US 59 South near Gessner Road, is known for its tasty vegetarian thali. A Hindi word for a large plate or platter, thali dining is a dream (that is, if sampling a variety of dishes and flavors on one large platter is your dream). Think of it as an endless buffet on one plate, and at Maharaja Bhog, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Your dining experience at the restaurant is complete with appetizers, entrées, a beverage, and dessert, all inspired by recipes sourced from India’s Gujarat and Rajasthan states. Plus, vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free diets are welcome here too.
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.
Food, culture, and history are deeply intertwined, as you’ll experience for yourself at The Monk’s. This Indo-Chinese restaurant traces its flavors back to the city of Kolkata, where this unique fusion, described by Kolkata native Nayantara Duttaas as “an Indian interpretation of Chinese food,” originated around the late 1700s. At The Monk’s, traditional Chinese and Indian entrées are served alongside dishes that marry some of the flair characteristic of each respective cuisine, like Desi-style noodles tossed with paneer and Sichuan spices. With locations near Washington Avenue and on Westheimer Road, you can get your Indo-Chinese fix both inside and outside the 610 Loop.
Walking into this upscale Indian restaurant in the Galleria VI wing is like shedding the present and entering a circa-early 18th century Indian palace. There are wooden colonnades and a host of arches; cozy, velvet-dressed nooks in intimate lounges; hand-cut mirror walls; solid-marble everything; and cabana sheets fluttering in the breeze. The menu offers its own tour that highlights the distinct spices that define Indian cuisine; for example, an impressive lamb shank towers over saffron cauliflower risotto and pepper gremolata. You might detect a very minor hint of smokiness in the bite. Another more traditional dish is the rich dal makhani, in which lentils are cooked for 72 hours with tomato and smoked chili. It might remind you of another deeply comforting staple of Houston and Texas cuisine: refried beans.
Another can’t-miss eat in the heart of Houston’s Mahatma Gandhi District, the formal name of the South Asian community around Hillcroft, is Neeta’s Indian Cuisine. Beloved for their authentic North Indian and Indo-Chinese eats—including staples like butter chicken, goat chops, and tons of vegetarian specials—you can’t go wrong at Neeta’s.
Anita Jaisinghani’s fast-casual café, a hit since it opened in 2011, offers Gulf Coast–Indian fusion fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sure, an order of saag paneer and butter chicken might be the most basic of Indian food orders, but the punchy creaminess of the former and the gentle heat of the latter prove that even with traditional everyday dishes, Jaisinghani is a cut above the rest. If you’re ordering to-go, Pondicheri has a separate entrance and exit, and markers on the floor make social distancing a breeze.
Another Southwest Freeway favorite, Shiv Sagar serves up Gujarati and South Indian street flavors with a modern flair. This vegetarian restaurant offers an assortment of dishes, including several types of dosas, chaat, and spins on popular street dishes like pav bhaji (a thick vegetable curry served with a roll) and halwa puri sabji (a breakfast dish featuring deep-fried bread and a sweet filling). Fans love Shiv Sagar for its well-priced, wide-ranging menu.
Shri Balaji Bhavan is a family-owned restaurant specializing in South Indian vegetarian dishes. Here, you’ll find staple dishes like masala dosa and a wide selection of chaat, snack-like street eats that are meant to light up every taste bud with their combinations of flavors and textures. Shri Balaji Bhavan has a dozen types of chaat to choose from, including samosa chaat, Indo-Chinese fusion chaat, and a mixed chaat filled with a little bit of everything. Fun fact: you can even get your own dosa batter here to take home!
Rice Military/Washington Corridor
At Sheel Joshi’s standout Northern Indian–focused restaurant there’s no buffet (not that this entirely matters these days), but the dishes sure do sing. The decadent cashew cream in his chicken korma is divine, but also consider ordering the Mangalorean dishes—we recommend the lamb version—with a curry that combines the sweetness of coconut and the fire of chile.
Sugarland, Hillcroft, Katy
Named after a coastal city in Southern India, Udipi Cafe proudly serves South Indian vegetarian cuisine. Fan favorites include Udipi’s generous serving of masala dosa, a crisp and savory crepe filled with spiced potatoes, and filter coffee, a South Indian signature sip. Also called filter kaapi, filter coffee is not your typical brew; sugar, slowly brewed coffee, and hot milk are carefully combined in what’s called “the stretch,” the final step of brewing filter kaapi that makes for a perfectly blended and aerated cup of joe. So, what’s the secret? Once the coffee’s ingredients are combined, the coffee concoction is poured back and forth between the drinking vessel and a second vessel, sometimes a small cup or bowl. But no matter your choice of food or drink, Udipi Cafe, located near Hillcroft and in Sugar Land and Katy, is a traditional staple that shouldn’t be missed.
This sparkling River Oaks restaurant comes from chef Sunil Srivastava, the owner of the late Great W’Kana. Here, Srivastava packs a deep menu with what he calls “forgotten” Indian cuisine, from succulent lamb dishes to ultra-spicy vegetable pots. From the gourmand menu, the khargosh ki saounth (braised and smoked rabbit with korma sauce) steals the show. Of course, the biryani is worth it too.