Insider’s Guide

Best of International Houston: India

Fresh spices, Masala Radio and, of course, Bollywood blockbusters

By Katharine Shilcutt September 1, 2015 Published in the September 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Population in Houston: 60,000 (the 9th largest Indian population in the country)

Aisha’s Salon & Spa

2002 Fry Rd., Katy, 281-398-4477, 

We have India to thank for threading, a much more pleasant way of keeping eyebrows on fleek than painful waxing, and there’s no better place to have your brows shaped than Aisha’s, and for just $7, natch, or $25 for . . . your whole face (or at least the parts that need it).

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

1150 Brand Ln., Stafford, 281-765-2277, 

All are welcome at this massive Hindu place of worship, an intricately carved mandir in Stafford. They won’t let you take pictures of its stunning interior and brightly-hued mantis (representations of Hindu deities), but never fear, you can always purchase postcards in the BAPS gift shop.

FunAsiA Bollywood Cinema 6

2703 Highway 6 S., Sugar Land, 281-493-0390, 

Sure, the seats are ’90s-era and the sound and/or projection is occasionally poor, but still—this is the only theater in town that consistently offers South Asian films on the big screen. All Hindi movies are buy-one, get-one-free on Thursdays, and the big Bollywood films may or may not come with English subtitles, so brush up on your Tamil.

India House Houston

8888 W. Bellfort Ave., 713-929-1900, 

This community center offers everything from classes in dance, yoga and meditation, to cricket matches played on its very own full pitch.

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Owner Aku Patel behind the counter at Karat 22

Karat 22 Jewelers

5623 Hillcroft Ave., 713-783-0808,

Aku Patel’s glittering mecca of gold jewelry was one of the first Indian-owned businesses to set up shop in what is now officially the Mahatma Gandhi District along Hillcroft Ave. If it weren’t for the fact that everything on display is for sale, you’d swear it was all some stunning museum exhibit.  

Keemat Grocers

Multiple locations, 

Since opening its first store in Little India back in 1994, Keemat has expanded into three Houston-area locations, each offering a wide variety of fresh spices, frozen foods and fine South Asian produce.

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A giant dosa at Shri Balaji Bhavan

Masala Radio 

Why listen to Internet radio for your Sonu Nigam and Priyanka Chopra fix when you can tune into a local legend (1320 AM on weekdays; 1110 AM on weekends)? For over 22 years, Masala Radio has been playing India’s biggest hits as well as keeping its listeners up to date on all things India in Houston, including festivals, concerts and events.

Shri Balaji Bhavan

5655 Hillcroft Ave., 713-783-1126 

After eating your weight in hot, crispy dosas and fiery bites of dahi puri (tip: order Shri Balaji Bhavan's salt lassi to cool the burn) at this vegetarian South Indian destination, head across Hillcroft to Hot Breads for freshly-baked cookies and cakes (eggless, as Indian cuisine demands). Trust us, there’s no tastier two-step in town. 

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