The Best Indian Restaurants In PhiladelphiaFrom casual takeout to candlelit dinners, these are the 10 best Indian restaurants in Philly.
Whether you’re looking for crispy dosas, fluffy naan, grilled tandoori shrimp, or piping hot aloo gobi, you’ll never go hungry trying to find incredible Indian food in this town. With so many good options, choosing where to grab a quick takeout order or celebrate your birthday surrounded by friends might seem as hard as making your desert island list. But we put together this guide–the 10 best Indian restaurants in the city–to satisfy all of your curry, puri, and chapati needs.
In preparation for our meal at Amma’s South Indian Cuisine, we eat light all day. That way, we can (over) indulge in specials like mutton curry with spicy onion and tomato gravy, a creamy paneer butter masala, and stacks of warm parotta. The Center City restaurant is always packed (they don’t take reservations), and it gets so loud that we suggest only bringing those that you can communicate with via side glances. The entrees are all $20 and served on vinyl record-sized plates, making the tender lamb in creamy gravy and spinach-tossed saag chicken among the tastiest deals in the city.
With South Indian and Indo-Chinese choices on the menu, your spread at West Philly’s Virasat Haveli can be filled with everything from crispy dosas to pan-seared chicken momo dumplings. Like most Indian restaurants in the city, there’s a lengthy vegetarian menu full of perfectly-spiced cubes of cheese cooked in a creamy tomato sauce or chana masala with tender chickpeas in an onion paste. The streamers hanging from the ceiling and rainbow-striped walls make us feel like we’re at the best-smelling New Year’s Eve party of our lives.
Veda is a Rittenhouse spot that serves everything from juicy Calcutta pork with a chutney glaze and a lamb rogan josh (but ask them to turn up the heat–the default is a lot tamer than you’d expect). One of our top restaurants in Center City, the trendy and plant-filled restaurant is an exciting place to be–especially if you’re in for bottomless brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Veda is always packed with coworkers or friends celebrating birthdays, passing around plates of vegetable samosa, salmon tandoori, and heaps of biriyani. The best part–besides the great food–is that they get to do it in a fun space and head out for a night on Chestnut Street when they’re done.
Surrounded by brick houses and apartment complexes in Chestnut Hill (and no visible signage), the first thing you’ll notice about New Era Indian Cuisine is how many times you must have walked past without noticing. That’s until the scent of nose-clearing curries, biryanis, and fried samosas invite you in. The dishes here are consistently excellent, and you’ll often see lines of people running in for pick-up orders while you dine. If you’re into spicy food, start with the chili fish–the sauce might be the bottled version of dragon’s breath from Game of Thrones. But with lots of options like creamy dishes of butter chicken and paneer Chettinad cooked in coconut milk, you’ll be able to balance out the heat.
Although they have one of our favorite shrimp dishes in the city, Logan Square's Thanal Indian Tavern has some curries that shouldn’t be ignored. The Malabar fish cooked in coconut milk and tamarind gravy and the melt-in-your-mouth goat curries are our go-to’s here (sop it all up with some puffy garlic naan). When you’re in the mood for seafood that’s savory and slightly sweet, go for the crispy gunpowder shrimp. Thanal never gets too packed and there are lots of tables, which makes it perfect for walk-ins or a last-minute group dinner when you want a place quiet enough to hear everyone at the table.
Bella Vista’s Lazeez Indian Cuisine has excellent plates of chicken, lamb, and beef shanks cooked in creamy gravy or a tangy ginger sauce. They also have kebabs with a great combination of spices, ranging from tandoori shrimp to the savory sweetness of chicken marinated with cream cheese. The white tablecloths and candlelight make it ideal for date night, while the golden Patachitra paintings on the wall are almost as good as the food. End your night with the subtly sweet badam kheer and the super rich rice pudding with cardamom, almond, and pistachios and you’ll forget that your date was 20 minutes late.
Nafi Food Express is a halal food truck in West Philly that serves grilled lamb, veggie biryani, and smashed eggplant, all for under $8. Their light and peppery chicken salad is most certainly an upgrade to whatever you meal-prepped for the week. Plus, it’s a food truck, so you can show up in sweats and be back on the couch with some fluffy naan in under an hour.
Manayunk Indian Grille is the best Indian restaurant to visit in the neighborhood, with a large menu of excellent pakoras, crispy samosas with mint chutney, and chicken vindaloo. Aside from classic Indian staples, you can also find Himalayan dishes like chicken hakka noodles, honey garlic shrimp, and numerous vegetarian choices when you want something less meat-focused. Start with crowd-pleasers like their tangy cubes of eggplant and aloo papdi chaat, and then head to their murgh malai kebab (chicken marinated in malai, cheese, and spices, then roasted in a clay oven), or saag paneer with spinach and house cottage cheese. And with steaming piles of naan and paratha on the menu, you have plenty of options to soak up every bit of sauce.
The menu at Headhouse Square's Indian Kitchen Lovash is long–we’re talking Samuel L. Jackson’s filmography long–so it truly has something for everyone. Bring a group of friends here and pass around lavash wraps packed with ground lamb and bits of green pepper, paneer tikka masala drenched in a mint sauce, or spicy potatoes coated in a tamarind chutney. This casual BYOB is rarely packed, so it can be your go-to for a spur-of-the-moment dinner with fragrant biryani, rich curries, and golden butter chicken drumsticks as big as a toddler’s Fisher-Price baseball bat.
With a large buffet and plenty of tables, Old City’s Karma Restaurant and Bar is a casual place where you can pack your plate with fish pakora, tandoori roti, and shrimp Malabar, and never feel rushed. They have an a la carte menu as well, but whether you’re standing in line or ordering from the menu, the section to pay attention to is the biryani. Each spoonful is fluffy, spice-rubbed, and filled with juicy cubes of chicken or lamb. There’s lots of colorful abstract art, a small bar, and windows that look out on an always busy 2nd Street, perfect for people-watching.