There are so many Indian restaurants in NYC that committing to one can feel as daunting as picking a mattress or appropriate job interview shoes that say “I am trustworthy and have good taste.” That’s why we’re presenting you with this guide. We narrowed down the 25 best spots in the city to eat dal, tandoori meats, South Indian stews, puffed-up puri, and much more. It includes everything from a cafeteria in the bottom of a Hindu temple in Flushing to old-school places in Murray Hill, and upscale white-table-cloth Midtown spots that are worth your (company’s) money.
So the next time you want to prove to your friends that New York is in fact a wonderful place to eat layered paratha and goat biryani, or you need an impressive tasting menu experience, use this guide.
Not only is Delhi Heights the best Indian restaurant in Jackson Heights, but it also happens to serve excellent Nepalese momos. In that way, it’s like your admirable friend who goes to the gym all the time but also stays out late every weekend. From the Indian menu, we love the Punjabi-style mustard greens, thin garlicky naan, and spicy lamb bhuna. But no meal at Delhi Heights would be complete without an order of beef and chive momos. These steamed dumplings could easily intimidate the best momos in the neighborhood in some sort of momo face-off scenario. And considering the other options for Nepalese dumplings in Jackson Heights, that’s pretty impressive.
The best Indian place in Queens and maybe all of New York City, Seva is one of those restaurants that you won’t be able to shut up about until at least two people from your social circle try it for themselves. If you want to keep things affordable, you could go for the prix fixe sampler, which includes an appetizer, an entree, and dessert of your choosing for $15.95, but then you would be missing out on the beautiful thing that happens when intensely flavorful chicken tikka, lamb saag, and aloo gobi join forces on your plate. Make a reservation, bring friends, and see who can best handle their spice when the lamb vindaloo hits the table.
If you’re not already someone who dreams about eating goat as much as a coyote dreams about eating goat, go to Adda and all of that will change. This Long Island City spot makes our favorite Indian goat dishes in the city, like a steaming biryani covered in a layer of baked dough, and an excellent junglee maas goat curry. You can easily have an amazing sit-down dinner here for under $25, and we think that’s something you should prioritize in the next week or so of your life.
Most vegetable biryanis we’ve tried in NYC taste like they’re missing meat - but not the one at Om on 2nd Avenue on the UES. It’s short-grained and lemony, it comes out scorching hot, and has enough cauliflower, peppers, and carrots to be a whole meal. Beyond the biryani, we love this place because there are always tables available and each one comes with folded cloth napkins and fresh flowers, and you’ll inevitably have leftovers you can save for lunch the next day. This is a great spot to remember for a relaxed weeknight date or meal with your family.
If you want to eat the best dal in the city, you need to go to Bukhara Grill. This Northern Indian restaurant in Midtown East specializes in black lentil dal bukhara that was originally made famous by a hotel in Delhi. It’s creamy and rich, and goes perfectly with raita, rice, and naan that’s as large as a bicycle seat. Also Bukhara has a lunch buffet every day where you can get as much food as you want for $14.95.
If you wander 6th Street in the East Village in search of Indian Food, you’ll feel as overwhelmed as a baby on a cross-town city bus. But the only one you need to pay attention to is Malai Marke. Especially if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian (there are more vegetarian options on this South Indian restaurant’s menu than anywhere else in the area, as well as a full vegan section). So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the vegetarian dishes should be your focus here, even if you’re a meat-eater. We like the creamy chana masala and the vindaloo from the “spicy club” section.
A South Indian cafeteria below a Hindu Temple in Flushing, Temple Canteen is well known among the Indian community and the most serious of Indian food enthusiasts. Originally the food here was just made as an offering to the gods, but now it’s an offering to you, too. Everything on the menu is vegetarian, and you won’t find better dosas in town. On your way out, make sure to peruse the gift shop.
You’ll find some of the very best tandoori chicken in NYC at Dhaba, a Punjabi spot in Murray Hill. You wouldn’t be making a bad decision by eating tikka masala or biryani here during the $13 lunch buffet, but you should prioritize dinner and focus your attention on the tandoor section of the menu. All of the meat tastes like it’s been marinated for days before it reaches your mouth in all of its smoky, and spicy glory. Plus they’re open till 1am on Fridays and Saturdays so you can treat this spot as a pitstop on your way to bed.
A hypothetical TV-infomercial for Indian Accent would go something like this: “Hey, business powerhouses of Midtown! Are you sick and tired of the same old lunch spots? Do you need to impress your clients or your incredibly boring boss with filled kulcha breads and precious scoops of delicious kolhapuri salad in the middle of large white plates? Come on down to Indian Accent on 56th Street and be the hero of the office.” While they do have a la carte and tasting menu options for both lunch and dinner, the best value is the $38 prix fixe lunch that comes with two courses of your choice.
This South Indian spot in Jackson Heights makes some of the best dosas in the neighborhood, but it seems like most people haven’t figured that out yet because you can always walk in and get a table. The space here is straightforward - there’s nothing but an empty coat rack and several tables topped with recycled Voss water bottles, so you’re really coming here to eat great food. When you order from the menu of over 20 different dosa options, start with the masala dosa and a few plates of samosa chaat. We like that the masala dosa is buttery, which balances out the spicy potatoes inside, and that the samosa stays firm under the mountain of chutney and yogurt.
Dawat was one of the very first Indian fine dining establishments in New York. The owner and former chef is attributed with writing the cookbook that brough Indian cooking to America (and she was also a Bollywood actress back in the day). All this is to say that Dawat is one of the most famous old-school Indian places in the city. Even though the restaurant has slipped a bit since the late eighties (who hasn’t), it’s still worth a visit for lunch, when prices are more reasonable.
Vatan is essentially an all-you-can-eat buffet where you never have to stand up to get seconds, thirds, or fourths of mini samosas and chana masala. This is a completely vegetarian Gujarati-style spot in Kips Bay where you pay $34 for three courses, and you can ask for as many refills as you want. Each course comes on a big metal tray (called a thali) with a about twelve different dishes. Our favorites are the fried potato dumplings, the bhaji with spinach and corn, and the sweet and sticky gulab jamun dessert. Even without the prix fixe situation, eating here will feel special - your table will have a thatched roof over it, and you’ll sit next to a wishing well and a massive tree. It’s the opposite of the Apple store, in a great way.
Midtown East has no shortage of establishments with white tablecloths that serve as appropriate backdrops for anyone coming from a 5pm budget meeting. Chola has all of those things, but it’s special because, as soon as you eat a dosa filled with lentils or bhindi sasuralwali (spiced okra), you’ll forget about Steve’s twenty-minute question he chose to save until the end of the meeting. The menu ranges from Northern and Southern specialties, including a lot of seafood options. If you order like we do, dinner will come out to about $50 per person, but it’s worth it, especially if you get lemon rice on the side.
This restaurant is specifically known for their incredible butter chicken - it’s rich, cooked in a clay oven, and eating it will probably make you want to lie down for several hours. Moti Mahal Delux is one of approximately 100 locations in the world (mostly in South Asia) and the owners also run Awadh on the UWS and Bhatti Indian Grill in Midtown East.
This is a neighborhood spot in Clinton Hill that has some of the best South Indian food in Brooklyn, so come here with that Pratt professor who’s interested in paying you to teach him about the dark web. If you like the sound of spicy curry potatoes covered in flaky crust, get the rava masala dosa. These dishes are on par with what you’ll find at the best Indian spots in Murray Hill, except you can enjoy them in a space that never feels packed - so you can explain your dark web secrets without anyone eavesdropping.
Imagine a big bowling alley, but take away the lanes, stupid nicknames on the monitor, and unflattering velcro shoes. And instead of frozen chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks, imagine this bowling alley serves kashmiri kabob and lamb korma. This is the old-school Americana you’ll find at Jackson Diner, a spot that’s been in Jackson Heights since 1980. The Northern Indian food, like tandoori meats and curries, are all within the $15-20 range, and each portion is large enough to feed an entire short bus of children.
Another high-end Indian experience worth trying at least once. The food at Junoon is not a huge departure from what you might find in a less expensive Indian restaurant in Midtown. But the difference is that you’ll have a white napkin in your lap while you’re here, and you can order a flight of Indian whiskey. We’d recommend having a business lunch at Junoon, when you can get a 3-course prix fixe for $37 and a two-course prix fixe for $30.
Bhatti is a nice Indian restaurant in Murray Hill that gets crazy busy, so make a reservation, get there on time, and go heavy on the kebabs (their specialty). But most importantly, bring some wine. This spot is BYOB, and you can have an ideal affordable date here by filling your table with dal, spicy meats, naan, and the retail-priced wines of your choosing.
Tamarind is probably the best known Indian restaurant downtown. It’s pretty fancy (they only allow children above the age of six) but the Northern Indian food is also incredibly good. Just count on the fact that your bill will be expensive. And since there aren’t a ton of upscale Indian options in Tribeca this is a good one to know about when you need to impress clients who work in the area.
The menu at Awadh on the Upper West Side is mostly focused on the region of Northeastern Indian by the same name, and features lots of low and slow-cooked meats in spices you won’t detect at too many other places in NYC. The food is good enough to make the trip worthwhile, if even just for the galouti kebab (minced lamb patties).
Making decisions when you’re hungry is difficult. Making decisions when you’re hungry and still saving for your honeymoon on Lake Como is even more difficult. Indian Taj is a very good all-you-can-eat spot in Jackson Heights that can help in either situation. The lunch and dinner buffet runs from 11am to 11pm, which means you can come here after work and still only pay $13 to fill yourself with over half a pound of goat curry.
There aren’t many hidden happy places in Midtown, because, well, it’s mostly very crowded and depressing. But if you need somewhere to sneak away and ignore the 50 emails you have sitting in your inbox, we’d suggest going to Bengal Tiger. This is a low-key spot that’s up a flight of stairs on 56th street, and the best thing to order here is the three course prix fixe deal. For $21.95 you get your choice of appetizer, entree, and a delicious rice pudding for dessert. We especially like the chicken makhni, the sweet vinegar-y sauce that comes under the samosa, and that the hottest level of spice is actually as spicy as an HBO sex scene.
Rahi is owned by the same team behind Adda, but the food here is a bit more experimental, modernized, and expensive than what you’ll find at Adda. So instead of dishes like butter chicken and pakora, you can eat some incredible 6 chili 5 spice cauliflower and Mangalorean duck breast curry. The one thing that Rahi has that Adda doesn’t is its West Village location. So the next time you need a walk-in spot with great food in that area, you should absolutely come here.
Much like an heiress in a jewelry store or a non-heiress at the prize counter of an arcade, all you have to do at Raja Sweets & Fast Food is point to what you want. There’s no menu at this counter-service spot in Jackson Heights, and it’s always packed with people drinking tea and eating chaat. We’d suggest ordering some fried things by the pound, like the excellent and crispy samosas and pakoras, plus a refrigerated dessert from their display case counter. Just know that Raja Sweets is cash-only and best for when you want something quick.
You’ll know you’re standing in front of Haandi if you are also standing next to about 35 off duty taxi cabs. This small restaurant just above the street on Lexington serves Pakistani and Indian things like mixed meat kabobs, mango shakes, and paratha, all cafeteria-style. You should really only go to Haandi if it’s past midnight or you have exactly ten minutes to eat food in Murray Hill. It’s open until 4am and you’ll be hard-pressed to spend more than $10 here.