Where to Eat Indian Food in Philadelphia: The Ultimate Guide

Where to Eat Indian Food in Philadelphia: The Ultimate Guide

From traditional snack spots to modern fusion dining to comforting buffets, these are the best Indian restaurants the region has to offer.

Philly, as a city, took a long time to embrace Indian food.

I’ve never understood why. The cuisines of India are some of the richest, most varied, and most complex in the world. They encompass things that everyone loves — crispy-fried textures, spice, sugary sweetness, comfort. There’s a deep and historic (and delicious) baking tradition, a whole universe of bar snacks and street food. And when broken down into regional cuisines, there’s this wondrous variety and range that stretches from whole roasted fish and goat and lamb to meticulous and refined classical dishes that are as rigorous in their prep as anything the French could ever imagine.

But, still, it’s taken us a while to get our heads around Indian food — to accept that there’s more to it than the strip-mall buffet, the chicken tikka at lunch.

The good news? This seems to have changed. Indian restaurants have opened all over the region, bringing new flavors and experiences to our scene. And they’re sharing space with a few stalwarts who’ve either been cooking for their neighbors for years or opened just ahead of the recent interest in Indian food.

The Indian Restaurants You Must Try First

Amma’s South Indian Cuisine, Center City and Voorhees
The Jersey original was beloved, and luckily, Philly also has its own outpost. The huge menu offers a departure from the Northern Indian-derived fare we typically encounter in the area, and comforting homestyle presentation and flavors of entrees, snacks and street foods make this a welcome option in Philly’s Indian scene. 1518 Chestnut Street.

Masala Kitchen, multiple locations 
Masala Kitchen’s kati rolls are an incredible food for any time of day. Freshly made roti is stuffed with your choice of protein with options like chicken tikka masala, lamb kebab, vegetarian paneer masala and more. It’s also open late for when you’re craving something greasy on the weekends.

Ekta, Fishtown, University City, Bryn Mawr
With three locations, Ekta is in the business of serving its neighbors exactly what they want. For me, that’s mutter paneer, chicken tikka masala and a mango lassi. The Fishtown location seems to vacillate between empty and way too busy for no apparent reason, but considering that they’re running a takeout, delivery, and eat-in operation all at the same time, it’s understandable. What’s more, the staff is always cool about it, so the crowds are rarely reason enough to stay away. 250 East Girard Avenue; 106 South 40th Street; 1003 1/2 West Lancaster Avenue.

Veda Modern Indian Bistro, Rittenhouse
There have been several attempts to bring modern, white tablecloth Indian food to Center City. And before Veda, pretty much all of them failed. But this place, with its tandoori salad, Calcutta pork ribs in mango chutney, lamb vindaloo and excellent naan, might just stand as the vanguard of an Indian boom in Philly. Veda does casual, quick lunch combos, happy hour deals, and a dinner menu that utilizes Indian flavors without being hyper-traditional. 1920 Chestnut Street.

Haveli Virasat, West Philly 
Haveli Virasat serves up a variety of Indian specialties as well as Indo-Chinese dishes like Hakka noodles, chicken momos and “Gobi Manchurian” — hunks of deep-fried cauliflower in a sweet and spicy sauce. Do not miss the lamb biryani or the housemade cakes in flavors like mango and chocolate. 4051 Market Street.

Tiffin, Multiple locations
One of Philly’s OG Indian operations, Tiffin has had an interesting growth curve. It started as a web-only delivery service (hence the name) long before Doordash and Postmates. Tiffin evolved into what founder Munish Narula calls a “multi-platform restaurant,” offering dine-in, take-out, delivery, and a variety of spin-off operations like the high-end Indo-French Tashan (R.I.P.) and Tiffin Bistro, which basically takes the Tiffin formula and adds a bar. With 10 locations on both sides of the Delaware, it remains one of the most accessible entry points for folks getting their first taste of Indian food — and a dependable standby for when you just want some saag and chicken korma on a Tuesday night.

International Foods and Spices, West Philly
This isn’t so much a restaurant as a grocery store with a handful of hot foods available. The food is excellent: Handmade samosas stuffed full of creamy potatoes and peas are just 90 cents each, and the parathas, which are made to order, are flaky, light and addictive. Plus, you can browse their selection of groceries while you wait. 4203 Walnut Street.

Mount Masala, Voorhees
Okay, yes. Mount Masala is really a Himalayan restaurant. But what are the odds that I’m going to be doing a list of the regions best Himalayan restaurants any time soon? So I’m including this one here just for those of you who (a) already know how good and rich and comforting Himalayan cuisine is, or (b) are now really curious about it. Momo dumplings, chicken in sweet garlic gravy, Himalayan chow mein, curries, and egg fried rice? You gotta check it out. 300 White Horse Road.

The Best Indian Restaurants in South Philly

Palace of Indian
Here, you’ll find big, bubbly rounds of buttery naan and a diverse selection of curries and stews that show the kitchen’s cooking prowess and expert restraint when it comes to Northern Indian cuisine. 1533 South 11th Street.

Saffron Patch
Tucked into a small corner storefront south of Snyder, Saffron Patch is the perfect neighborhood spot for takeout or a quick meal. 2650 South 15th Street.

The Best Indian Restaurants in Old City and Society Hill

Lovash Indian Restaurant and Bar
Samosa, pakora, roti and naan fresh from the oven, rogan josh and curries, all with a full bar attached: What more could you ask for? 238 South Street.

Karma Restaurant and Bar
Karma has been serving Old City since 2003. It’s a place where the neighbors can come for buffet lunches or dinner (with the added bonus of a full bar). The menu leans heavily on the kitchen’s tandoor ovens, with more than a dozen kinds of bread on offer. The kitchen does both North and South Indian appetizers, lamb chettinad, butter chicken, goat curry, and a long list of vegetarian specialties. 246 Market Street.

The Best Indian Restaurants in West Philly and University City

Desi Chaat House
This place offers a couple biryanis and a couple wrap sandwiches, but the bulk of the menu is taken up with various chaats: thin, fried dough topped with everything from potatoes, lamb and chickpeas to dates, fruits and beans. They also offer special, regional chaats from all over India, plus a really nice selection of samosa. 501 South 42nd Street.

Desi Village
In addition to the Indian takeout classics that are familiar to the American palate, Desi Village also serves a handful of Pakistani specialties, including yakhni soup, which is relatively rare on local menus. 4527 Baltimore Avenue.

New Delhi Restaurant
This is a longtime favorite spot for a cheap buffet lunch or a nearly as cheap buffet dinner. At $16, all-you-can-eat at dinner is a killer deal. Add on a couple beers, and you can waddle out the door for not much more than $20. There’s also an à la carte menu, but the buffet is the real draw here. 4004 Chestnut Street.

Kabobeesh
There are two locations of Kabobeesh. Only the one in the northeast does breakfast, but the University City location has a long list of daily, weekly and weekend specials, including Lahori-style lamb, curries, tandoori chicken and sandwich rolls. There are kebabs and Pakistani-style meats, combo platters and late-night hours, and everything is served cafeteria-style in a space that looks like an old American diner. 4201 Chestnut Street.

The Best Indian Restaurants in Center City, Rittenhouse and Washington Square West

Ateethi Rittenhouse
Ateethi started out in a small location in northeast Philly but recently expanded to the Rittenhouse neighborhood. Opt for their dosa, a dish typical in South India in which a thin, rice-based crepe is served with the filling of your choice. 2046 Sansom Street.

Thanal Indian Tavern
Thanal is the very definition of where Philly’s modern Indian cuisine is heading in the future. There’s nothing on the menu here that I don’t want to eat every day — think simple Peshawari walnut naan, Indian railway peppers, tandoori wings, kebabs from the tandoor, and duck breast flavored with coconut and fennel. It’s a fun, comfortable place, with a nice bar and a smooth, modern vibe. 1939 Arch Street.

IndeBlue
For five years, IndeBlue was pretty much alone when it came to modern Indian flavors in Philly. They did crazy fusions (spiced lamb keema shepherd’s pie, fried long hots stuffed with paneer) in a cocktail bar atmosphere, and the kitchen never stopped pushing the boundaries of what modern Indo-fusion cuisine could be. Today, it fits right in with the movement to bring Indian flavors to the forefront of modern cuisine. Plus, it’s the only place I know of where you can get an Indian brunch in Philly, complete with masala-spiced poutine, paneer toast, and an Indian lobster roll topped with mango slaw. 205 South 13th Street.

The Best Indian Restaurants in the Northeast and the Philly Suburbs

Zaika
This combination Indian-Pakistani menu leans heavily on North Indian classics: milk tea, naan, and Kashmiri chicken in a sweet cream sauce, plus a lot of vegetarian options. The dine-in area is small but cute. Grab takeout across the counter at the halal grocer that shares the space. 2481 Grant Avenue.

New Azaad 
This classic little hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop Indian spot just so happens to be a Best of Philly winner. There’s not much in the way of atmosphere if you’re dining in — it’s just a small space that looks almost like a deli — but the food more than makes up for it in quality, authenticity, quantity and price. 6443 Castor Avenue.

Mallu Cafe
The menu at Mallu covers both North and South Indian dishes, but the kitchen’s specialty is heavily spiced, Kerala-style fare. Appam pancakes, strong curries, and dry-fried beef or chicken Ulathiyathu are the big draws here. 10181 Verree Road.

House of India
House of India now has two locations: its first spot in Royersford and another that opened in Collegeville more recently. Both menus are heavy on tandoori plates, vegetarian offerings, and a mix of biryanis and Indo-Chinese dishes. 6 Kugler Road, Royersford; 121 Market Street, Collegeville.

Choolaah Indian BBQ
Choolaah is an oddity: a modern, fast-casual mall restaurant offering build-your-own bowls, wraps, dal, samosa, and chaat, plus a display kitchen full of tandoor ovens. This is proof that Indian flavors are in demand in and around Philly, and it provides a modern vision of how they can spread throughout our dining universe. 155 Village Drive, King of Prussia.

Coriander
Expect malai kofta for the meat eaters, fried cauliflower in garlic sauce for the vegetarians, and palak paneer for everyone. 910 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, Voorhees.

Gagan Palace
There are people who swear that this is the best Indian buffet in South Jersey. And I don’t know about that, but it is a solid, well-loved joint that’s very popular for weekend buffet dining, pani puri, syrup-soaked gulab jamun, and pretty much everything else. It’s easy to miss, though: Check out the alley next to the strip mall for the sign. 33 South White Horse Pike, Stratford.

Halal Kabab and Curry
There are a couple tables for people who want to dine in, but this is essentially a takeaway joint that offers some excellent versions of classic Indian dishes. Try the vindaloo, some aloo gobi and chana masala your first time through, and keep in mind that mild is pretty spicy and medium is hot. Order accordingly. 7233 Marshall Road, Upper Darby.

Maroosh Halal 
Kati rolls, vegetable pizza, fried rice, kabobs, burgers, fish fry — Maroosh does a little bit of everything. But the naan and samosa are favorites, the space offers both takeout and ample space for dining in, and the kati rolls are considered the best bargain on the menu. 88 South 69th Street, Upper Darby.

Saffron Indian Kitchen
Saffron has locations in Ambler, Bala Cynwyd and Wayne, and it’s become one of the most popular spots in the ‘burbs to find solid, straightforward Indian food. Each spot is bright, welcoming and family friendly, with excellent servers that will happily guide you through the menu. 60 East Butler Avenue, Ambler;145 Montgomery Avenue, Bala Cynwyd; 522 West Lancaster Avenue, Wayne.

Indian Hut
With local outposts in Trooper and Exton, this combination restaurant and bakery serves as the ideal place for families to pick up anything from dosas, lunchtime thali platters, Indo-Chinese specials and biryani to cakes, cookies and Indian pastries. 260 North Pottstown Pike, Exton; 2706 Ridge Pike, Trooper.