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A round metal tray with little metal cups of curries and dals, with small puffy flatbreads.
One course of a massive Gujarati vegetarian meal at Murray Hill’s Vatan.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Where to Find the Best Regional Indian Cooking in NY and NJ

Featuring food from Gujarat to West Bengal to Tamil Nadu, 26 exceptional restaurants and snack bars

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One course of a massive Gujarati vegetarian meal at Murray Hill’s Vatan.
| Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

India has one of the most diversified cuisines in the world — rife with internal and external influences, ancient as well as modern — but it wasn’t until recently that our city’s roster of regional Indian cuisines has grown exponentially. A dozen years ago, we had mainly Punjabi restaurants, with a smattering of Gujarati cafes and South Indian dosa parlors — now, the city’s complement of regional cuisines runs to ones associated with Goa, Chennai, West Bengal, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and several more cities and states, sometimes with entire restaurants devoted to them.

Here are some destination places to find regional Indian food in New York City, New Jersey, and Long Island.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Roti Roll Bombay Frankie

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Over the last decade, at least two dozen Indian snack shops have opened in the five boroughs. They often have a Bollywood theme to them, celebrating Indian pop culture. Located in Manhattan Valley, Bombay Frankie Roll is more bare-bones, with seating at counters. Reflecting the snacking style of Mumbai (the former Bombay), it proves you can wrap almost anything in a roti. Also available are masala french fries, calamari, and an Indian spin on fried chicken. 

A roti roll from Bombay Frankie cut into three pieces to show its vegetable laden interior.
A roti roll from Bombay Frankie.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Saravanaa Bhavan

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With 101 restaurants in 19 countries, Saravanaa Bhavan is the Cheesecake Factory of southern India. The menu is fully vegetarian and offers a predictable list of dosas and idlis in a modern restaurant setting. In addition, it pulls rice dishes and less-familiar flatbreads from several locales in South India. Examples include adai aviyal (a pair of delightful red pancakes made with pulses, served with a coconut vegetable curry, from Kerala), and bagalabath (a nut-studded yogurt rice common to several South Indian states).

A pair of reddish pancakes with a couple of whitish curries on the side.
Adai avial and a coconut vegetable curry, served with jaggery (brown sugar).
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Indian Accent

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A luxury restaurant from New Delhi, Indian Accent plays fast and loose with Indian dining traditions, creating a new haute Indian cuisine. That doesn’t mean everything is great on the prix fixe menus, but even the failures are interesting. A flatbread called a phulka might come wrapped around chili pork or pulled jackfruit, while lamb is roasted in ghee, and root vegetables appear with mustard greens in a tart sauce. Dishes like potato sphere chaat veer into science chef territory.

Two flatbread fold-overs on a white plate, with a little red pastrami visible inside.
Pastrami naan adds a little bit of New York to Indian Accent.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Dawat Haute Indian Cuisine

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With a menu originally supervised by actor and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, Dawat is an East Side white tablecloth joint founded in 1986 behind Bloomingdale’s. The food is adventuresome, while remaining traditional, with more emphasis on North than South. Tandoori cooking is a specialty, and Mughal vegetarian dishes like saag paneer and malai kofta are rendered with superior subtlety. The menu is best, though, when it strays over the map, as in Keralan Jewish Cornish game hen, and Hyderabadi sliced lamb kebab.

Multiple Indian dishes on a tablecloth, most in wok-like metal vessels.
A spread at Dawat includes a mixed tandoori grill and saag paneer.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Hyderabadi Biryani

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This small spot in a mainly Chinese and Korean neighborhood makes biryani in the style of Hyderabad, a modern southern tech center where northern Indian dishes took root in the 18th century after the Mughal invasion. The biryani list is vast, including a hybrid chili chicken biryani and another that features boiled eggs, a favorite ingredient in the city’s cooking. But the restaurant also summons specialties from other parts of southern India, including a wonderful black peppercorn chicken from Kerala and a fiery chicken curry from Tamil Nadu. 

Whole boiled eggs smeared with red sauce.
Egg biryani from Hyderabadi Biryani.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Temple Canteen

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In the basement of the Ganesh Temple in Flushing is one of the city’s most remarkable restaurants. Serving South Indian vegetarian fare since 1993, its menu is aimed at worshippers, but everyone is made welcome (the entrance is around the corner on Holly Avenue). Consult the posted menu for specials, and order chaats, dosas, uttapams, idlis, and rice dishes at the counter. Saturday-only specials include a mini tiffin featuring small versions of signature dishes; red onion sambar vada (savory donuts), and mirchi bajji (deep fried chiles). 

A well-browned pancake dotted with vegetables like carrots and peas.
South Indian uttapam, a vegetable-studded pancake with a fermented batter.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Southern Spice

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This amazing restaurant concentrates on the meat, fish, and poultry of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, offering food that’s a far cry from dosas and uttapams more familiar to some New Yorkers. Nilgiri mutton kurma surprises with its heady dose of mint, and sura puttu — mashed shark flavored with ginger, curry leaves, and black mustard seed — would go great on a bagel. There’s a bar serving cocktails, beer, and wine, and several rare bar snacks, such as goat brain masala. 

A paratha folded back to reveal a filling of reddish goat brains.
Goat brain masala, a bar snack.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Once there were tons of these modest Punjabi steam table restaurants scattered around town, dispensing hearty meat curries and sturdy vegetable dishes with rice, naans, chutney, dal, raita, and a perfunctory undressed salad. Now Swagat is one of the few remaining. Lamb and chicken curries are the mainstays, with tandoori kebabs another major focus. Ten or so main dishes per day are supplemented with apps like bhel poori (a crunchy chaat) and fish pakora (bright red fritters). Chicken or vegetarian lunch specials are a particularly good deal.  

Vegetables, meat in brown gravy, yellow split peas, and rice on a white plate.
Punjabi steam table items.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Jackson Diner

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When it was founded in 1982 just up the block in an old diner, retaining the original name, it marked the advent of Jackson Heights as an Indian shopping district. The diner was aimed at vegetarians and meat eaters alike, tendering South Indian vegetarian fare as well as lamb and chicken curries. Nowadays, the premises are more luxurious, with a menu composed mainly of North Indian standards, with the occasional Indo-Chinese dish and Mumbai-style chaat, though the South Indian fare is now missing from the menu.

A steam table poised next to the front windows with patrons serving themselves.
The steam table at the venerable Jackson Diner, now out of commission but slated to return.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Cardamom

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Shrimp is perhaps the most common main ingredient in the curries of Goa — now a beach resort, but former Portuguese colony — on the southwest coast, and shrimp caldine is a great example. It’s made from a paste featuring coconut milk, tomatoes, and tamarind, powerfully flavored with cumin, garlic, turmeric, and ginger at Cardamom, a restaurant specializing in Goan fare, with additional dishes from other regional South Indian cuisines.

Shrimp and cilantro visible in a greenish yellow sauce in a white bowl.
Prawn caldine at Cardamom.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Anjappar

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At least partly concentrating on the food of Chennai and vicinity in Tamil Nadu, Anjappar offers a splendid version of Chettinad chicken, and goes on to provide the meatier specialties of the city and region. New York’s is the branch of a restaurant founded in Chennai in the 1960s, boasting two other branches in New Jersey. Other regional offerings include kathirikkai kulambu (tart eggplant stew), nattu kozhi masala (chicken in onion and coconut), and mutton egg fry.

A restaurant with a red awning, rainbow stained glass windows, and laughing people walking by on the sidewalk.
Offering the food of Chettinad, Anjappar is located in Manhattan’s Curry Hill.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chote Nawab

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When it opened nearly 10 years ago named after a Bollywood movie, this comfortable corner restaurant ushered in a new era of pan-Indian menus with carefully chosen regional specialties. The dining room was jazzy, and the food a tad more elaborate than Curry Hill habitues had been used to. Find on the diverse bill of fare dum biryanis from Hyderabad, lamb in coconut milk from Chennai, shrimp curry from Mangalore, lamb kebabs from Lucknow, and mustardy chicken tikkas from West Bengal. 

Sizzling reddish pieces of meat in a flat cast iron pan.
Lucknow minced lamb kebab.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

One of the most intriguing restaurants in the city, long-running Vatan is made up to look like a village in Gujarat, on two levels decorated with Bollywood movie posters, with huts you can sit inside of and a spreading banyan tree that will put you in a good mood. The food consists of a single all-you-can-eat meal that comes in several courses, strictly vegetarian and delivered by waiters in festival costumes. Flatbreads and pulses abound, with snacks and chutneys galore. 

A room suffused with orange light, with a fake tree on the ride and a dining balcony with stone railing seen in the background.
The two level interior of Vatan, with banyan tree.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Taste of Cochin

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Kerala lies near the southernmost tip of India. The cuisine features seafood and coconut, often richly spiced with curry leaves, black mustard seeds, and black peppercorns. Beef is a mainstay, making Taste of Cochin one of the few Indian places offering beef curries. Menu highlights include fish moillee, Malabar paratha, beef ularthiyathu, goat masala, and avial, a vegetarian delight of chayote and long beans in coconut milk. The place fills with celebratory banquets on the weekends. 

Chunks of fish in a creamy yellow sauce, with green chiles.
Fish moillee, from Kerala.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Curry Up Now

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This punningly named fast casual restaurant nevertheless has a commodious and colorful dining room where you can while away an hour or two feasting on the broadest menu of street snacks — mainly from Mumbai, but also originating in New Delhi and Kolkata. Several are borne on the Portuguese-Indian rolls called pav, but others take the form of crunchy, chutney-laced chaats, bowls, or even burritos. For bigger appetites, there are thalis, and many of the snacks and meals at Curry Up are vegetarian or vegan.

Two dinner rolls split to admit globular potato fritters.
Vada pav are little potato fritter sandwiches.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Bawarchi Biryani Corner

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Bawarchi specializes in two iconic types of southern Indian dum biryani. The Hyderabadi style is the more austere of the two — meat, poultry, or fish lightly marinated and then cooked with basmati rice in a sealed container to preserve the flavors. The Vijayawada style mixes in gravy and pickles at the last moment, making the rice darker and more pungently flavored. Multiple vegetarian and meat-bearing regional dishes, especially from the southern states, fill out the menu, including a half dozen fascinating variations on chicken curry.

Two serving bowls of biryani with colorful rice and a boiled egg on top, the rice on the right is darker.
Hyderabadi (left) and Vijayawada styles of dum biryani.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Masala Cafe

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Though several spots with Chennai in the name have laid claim to serving the food of the former Madras, they more often provide a general South Indian menu. Masala Cafe takes a deeper dive into the regional cuisine of the city. Offered as an appetizer, poondu kuzhambu is a spicy red vegetarian gravy to be eaten with lacha paratha, a flaky flatbread. Other recommendations include kozhi milagu varuval (black pepper chicken) and egg murtaba (a crisp stuffed pancake).

A blue bowl of red sauce with green leaves bobbing in it.
Poondu kuzhambu at Masala Cafe.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Sri Ganesh’s Dosa House

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Located in Jersey City’s India Square, Sri Ganesh’s is one of the city’s finest South Indian vegetarian restaurants, specializing in its namesake dosas tendered in around 60 varieties, some invented, others attributed to cities back home like Bangalore and Pondicherry. Many other classic dishes such as upma, uttapam, curd rice (laced with yogurt), and pulihora (tamarind rice from Andhra Pradesh) are available. A unique ordering system featuring numbers on sticks sometimes generates chaos. 

A stunted cone of off-white farina dotted with spices, with red pickle on the side.
The cream of wheat porridge called upma.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

The Kati Roll Company

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Kati rolls are said to have been invented in Kolkata, the former Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal. These rolls wrap a flaky paratha around a choice of fillings, often including chicken, lamb patties, chana, mixed vegetables, shrimp, paneer, and an egg, which may arrive annealed to the interior surface of the paratha. Two great places serving them duke it out on Macdougal Street: Thelewala (where they’re called nizami rolls) and Kati Roll Co, which boasts several other branches around town. A favorite is the achari paneer roll at the latter, supplementing the fresh cheese with a fragrant and acidic mixed pickle.

Three wrinkled flatbread rolls crowded on a tissue.
An assortment of kati rolls all look the same from the outside.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Kuttanadan Indian Restaurant

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Kuttanadan is one of four restaurants from the far southwestern state of Kerala found in the borderlands of Queens and Long Island, where seafood and coconut milk hold sway, and beef is often eaten. Thrill to charcoal-grilled sardines in the Portuguese style, beef devil (featuring brisket with a spicy rub), and the quizzically named pork roast (it’s not really roasted], which features chunks of shoulder meat and shards of coconut stir fried.

A round aluminum container filled with pork and coconut.
Pork roast at Kuttanadan.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Dosa Royale

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It was a brilliant idea to jazz up the South Indian vegetarian dosa menu a bit, adding unexpected fillings like sweet potato, then adding other non-vegetarian fare from South India and North India to the mix. This Fort Greene restaurant also does a good job of reproducing such southern standards as Chennai fish, Chettinad chicken, and eggplant kulambu and lamb pepper fry, both from Kerala.

A rolled pancake laid across a formally dressed round table.
The masala dosa at Dosa Royale.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Indian Table

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This recently revamped Cobble Hill restaurant centers its menu on the food of Goa, including chicken vindaloo and shrimp Goan style in a spicy and creamy coconut sauce (indeed, seafood is a major focus of the menu). But Indian Table also slings dishes aplenty from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Chennai, as well as a version of Lucknow goat biryani that’s meat heavy and golden brown via a naan spread across the top.

Four bowls of curry in shades of brown, dark red, and orange on a slatted table.
A selection of dishes from Indian Table.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chawla’s 2

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This budget chain started out near New Delhi in 1960, and eventually expanded to New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. The food is ramped-up Punjabi with other North Indian cuisines, name-checking Amritsar and often using cream in addition to milk. It offers some invented dishes like cream chicken, laced with herbs and tasting almost French. Apart from all the Mughal standards, Chinese-Indian food is part of the agenda, with an unforgettable gobi Manchurian. For vegetarians, the leathery okra known as kukuri bindi is the ticket. 

Chunks of chicken in a yellowish curry sauce with occasional other vegetables, including chiles.
Chawlas 2’s celebrated cream chicken.

Jalsa Grill & Gravy

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Jalsa Grill and Gravy in West Midwood is one of the few restaurants I know of in the city representing, at least partly, the food of West Bengal, the state in which Kolkata (the former Calcutta) is situated. In addition to a chaat or two (including a wonderful example featuring fried slices of Asian eggplant on a chickpea base), there’s an entire section of the menu devoted to West Bengali fare, including chingri malaikari, a gingery coconut curry laced with mustard oil and turmeric. All food is halal.  

A spoon holds a shrimp aloft over a bowl of milky orange curry.
Chingri malaikari, a prawn curry at Jalsa.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chowpatty Restaurant

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Named after a beach in Mumbai and founded in 1990, Chowpatty is an Iselin, New Jersey restaurant specializing in food from Gujarat. The walls are lined with swaying palm trees, and the menu is strictly vegetarian. Highlights include pani poori (tiny crisp pastries to be filled by the diner with tamarind water), pav sandwiches made on Portuguese rolls, dosas, thali meals served on trays, a buttermilk soup called khadi, and kaju karela — a curry of cashews and bitter melon.

A round porcelain train with compartments and colorful dishes in each of of the nine indentations.
Gujarati village thali at Chowpatty.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Moghul Express

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The menu of this handsome hilltop spot is centered on traditional Punjabi, Maharashtrian, and other northern fare, including chicken curry, lamb jalfrezi, fish Kolawada, and aloo gobi masala. From there the menu zooms to Indo-Chinese, Indo-Thai, and Bengali sweets, plus a full South Indian menu of dosas, idlis, and uttapams. A favorite dish: Bombay chaat in an edible bowl sprinkled with pomegranate seeds — the latter an ingredient that provides a touch of color everywhere at Moghul Express. 

A pile of crunchies with green chutney, yogurt, and bright red pomegranate seeds.
Bombay chaat comes topped with pomegranate seeds.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Dosa Express

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Among the half dozen places in the contiguous New Jersey towns of Iselin and Edison that specialize in South Indian dosas, this utilitarian place does them best. This is also a great place to try upma, the spice-shot farina porridge, as well as innovative uttapams filled with broccoli or tomato, in addition to the usual idli and vada snacks and a large array of dosas and rava dosas. Wash it all down with majjige, a masala buttermilk.  

A masala dosa cut in half to show the potato filling, with coconut chutney visible on the Styrofoam plate behind it.
Masala dosa at Edison’s Dosa Express.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

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Roti Roll Bombay Frankie

A roti roll from Bombay Frankie cut into three pieces to show its vegetable laden interior.
A roti roll from Bombay Frankie.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Over the last decade, at least two dozen Indian snack shops have opened in the five boroughs. They often have a Bollywood theme to them, celebrating Indian pop culture. Located in Manhattan Valley, Bombay Frankie Roll is more bare-bones, with seating at counters. Reflecting the snacking style of Mumbai (the former Bombay), it proves you can wrap almost anything in a roti. Also available are masala french fries, calamari, and an Indian spin on fried chicken. 

A roti roll from Bombay Frankie cut into three pieces to show its vegetable laden interior.
A roti roll from Bombay Frankie.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Saravanaa Bhavan

A pair of reddish pancakes with a couple of whitish curries on the side.
Adai avial and a coconut vegetable curry, served with jaggery (brown sugar).
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

With 101 restaurants in 19 countries, Saravanaa Bhavan is the Cheesecake Factory of southern India. The menu is fully vegetarian and offers a predictable list of dosas and idlis in a modern restaurant setting. In addition, it pulls rice dishes and less-familiar flatbreads from several locales in South India. Examples include adai aviyal (a pair of delightful red pancakes made with pulses, served with a coconut vegetable curry, from Kerala), and bagalabath (a nut-studded yogurt rice common to several South Indian states).

A pair of reddish pancakes with a couple of whitish curries on the side.
Adai avial and a coconut vegetable curry, served with jaggery (brown sugar).
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Indian Accent

Two flatbread fold-overs on a white plate, with a little red pastrami visible inside.
Pastrami naan adds a little bit of New York to Indian Accent.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

A luxury restaurant from New Delhi, Indian Accent plays fast and loose with Indian dining traditions, creating a new haute Indian cuisine. That doesn’t mean everything is great on the prix fixe menus, but even the failures are interesting. A flatbread called a phulka might come wrapped around chili pork or pulled jackfruit, while lamb is roasted in ghee, and root vegetables appear with mustard greens in a tart sauce. Dishes like potato sphere chaat veer into science chef territory.

Two flatbread fold-overs on a white plate, with a little red pastrami visible inside.
Pastrami naan adds a little bit of New York to Indian Accent.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Dawat Haute Indian Cuisine

Multiple Indian dishes on a tablecloth, most in wok-like metal vessels.
A spread at Dawat includes a mixed tandoori grill and saag paneer.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

With a menu originally supervised by actor and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, Dawat is an East Side white tablecloth joint founded in 1986 behind Bloomingdale’s. The food is adventuresome, while remaining traditional, with more emphasis on North than South. Tandoori cooking is a specialty, and Mughal vegetarian dishes like saag paneer and malai kofta are rendered with superior subtlety. The menu is best, though, when it strays over the map, as in Keralan Jewish Cornish game hen, and Hyderabadi sliced lamb kebab.

Multiple Indian dishes on a tablecloth, most in wok-like metal vessels.
A spread at Dawat includes a mixed tandoori grill and saag paneer.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Hyderabadi Biryani

Whole boiled eggs smeared with red sauce.
Egg biryani from Hyderabadi Biryani.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This small spot in a mainly Chinese and Korean neighborhood makes biryani in the style of Hyderabad, a modern southern tech center where northern Indian dishes took root in the 18th century after the Mughal invasion. The biryani list is vast, including a hybrid chili chicken biryani and another that features boiled eggs, a favorite ingredient in the city’s cooking. But the restaurant also summons specialties from other parts of southern India, including a wonderful black peppercorn chicken from Kerala and a fiery chicken curry from Tamil Nadu. 

Whole boiled eggs smeared with red sauce.
Egg biryani from Hyderabadi Biryani.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Temple Canteen