Where To Eat Indian Food In San Francisco guide image


Where To Eat Indian Food In San Francisco

Our 9 favorite places for Indian food in the city.

Perfectly crispy dosas, sizzling platters of tandoori fish, and pani puri spiked with gin—you’ll find them all at one of the many fantastic Indian restaurants across SF. The next time you’re looking for curries, biryanis, or steaming basketfuls of naan, just use this guide. It has 9 great options in the city, from casual counter-service places to high-end, entirely-vegetarian spots. 


photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

Viva Goa review image

Viva Goa


2420 Lombard Street, San Francisco
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As far as we know, there isn’t any other restaurant in the city specializing primarily in dishes from the state of Goa in western India. Rarity alone is one reason to head to this Marina spot. The other is their seafood dishes that are worth crossing town for. Exhibit A: the prawn xacuti. It’s a coconut-heavy Goan curry that’s complex and slightly sweet, and loaded with a generous helping of shrimp. Another must-order is the tandoori fish, which arrives sizzling on a platter and is flaky enough to cut with a spoon. Viva Goa is never too packed and there are plenty of tables available for walk-ins, which makes it perfect for last-minute dinners where we can also hear what our friends are saying from across the table. 

This Dogpatch spot pulls from the make-your-own-rules playbook by remixing western Indian food with new ingredients. Which is why you’ll find blue cheese in the fluffy parathas and bitter melon in the sticky chutney. Garlicky pea shoots and raita are heaped atop tender Impossible kebabs. And mint-infused tamarind water for the crispy pani puri contains actual gin. A meal at this small-plate dining spot is a great way to eat your way through the regions of Gujarat: a vegetarian mix of fire-roasted eggplant that taste like it was forged in the flames of Mount Doom, housemade maska paneer, and the other dishes inspired by the chef’s family.

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The arm-length dosas at this South Indian spot in the Mission are crispy works of art. They break with a satisfying crackle when you tear into them, and are the perfect vehicle for all of the refreshing, tomato-y chutneys and sambar that come on the side. Showstopping dosas are only part of what makes a meal here so great—you can also get into coconutty prawn curry, biryani loaded with goat or lamb, and snackier dishes like spicy, deep-fried chicken 65. Sharing it all with friends in a space that’s painted bright orange and filled with twinkly lights and gold streamers makes us feel like we’re at an extremely delicious New Year’s Eve party.   

The menu at Mission Curry House is lengthier than Miley Cyrus’s discography, so expect to find something for everyone. You can feast on fragrant biryani overflowing with tender lamb and a spread of rich curries, while your friend takes down plump Nepalese momos stuffed with chicken or vegetables, and golden-brown dosas as big as a child’s baseball bat. But you’ll want to share it all anyway, including the impressive naan stuffed with paneer or spinach, or shredded coconut, raisins, cashews, and cherry. You could order enough to feed your table three times over without ever feeling rushed, which is why this spot is our go-to for long lunches with coworkers or spur-of-the-moment group dinners. 

The casual institution has been around since before Bluetooth was invented (1999)—probably because the curries, biryanis, and other Pakistani Indian dishes are as consistent as they are excellent. They also have a big section of vegetarian curries that shouldn’t be overlooked, like the melt-in-your-mouth benghan bartha (sop it up with an order or two of puffy garlic naan). Pakwan is always packed with groups passing around plates heaped with biryani and tikka masala, and people waiting in line to order at the counter, but it’s always easy to walk in and secure a table. And that's why we come here for spontaneous Monday night dinners, catch-ups with friends, and to dig into some samosas after the worst week ever. Pakwan also has locations in the Tenderloin and Ingleside, plus a couple of East Bay outposts.

Udupi Palace is where you go when you want to show up in sweats, catch up with a friend for an hour, and eat some of the best dosas in the Mission. The ones at this South Indian vegetarian spot are perfectly crispy, filled with things like well-spiced potatoes, and, depending on the kind you get (like the mysore) are roughly the size and shape of a small briefcase. This small spot also does a saag paneer that’s heavier on the spinach, ultra puffy poori, fried samosas that get a boost of flavor from an array of chutneys, and a big curry section. And if getting dressed in sweats and casually popping in for a meal is too much for you to handle, don’t stress. Udupi Palace also runs a solid takeout operation.

This high-end restaurant in SoMa is reimagining traditional Indian cuisine and mixing in ingredients and cooking styles from around the world with the precision of a lauded scientist. Simply put, Rooh is exciting and inventive, especially their small plates. Rich mawa-stuffed black morel mushrooms are slathered in decadent yakhni sauce. The spiced chickpeas topped with potato mousse and crispy salli shreds are hearty enough to double as the world’s best campfire meal. And the avocado-filled puri puffs topped with chilled yogurt mousse crack in your mouth in a satisfying way when you bite into them. The best part is you'll eat it in the presence of a fancy ayurvedic-inspired cocktail, and in a place that's jewel-toned, swank, and filled with velvet chairs.

We beeline to Keeva Indian Kitchen whenever nose-clearing curries call out to us. The bright, casual restaurant in the Inner Richmond makes chicken, lamb, goat, seafood, and vegetable curries that don’t hold back on the spice (you can also order them mild). The kashmiri chili-spiced lamb rogan josh builds satisfying heat that lingers in the mouth, and a few bites of the creamy coconut fish curry might make your eyes water, in the best way. Another reason you’ll find us here is to pick up to-go orders of their tandoori chicken wings—they’ve got a gorgeous char and come out nicely smoky—before watching a game at home or a picnic at nearby Golden Gate Park.

Aside from typical Northern Indian staples like chicken tikka masala and saag paneer, this Haight spot offers up a ton of plant-focused dishes, with 24 vegetarian options alongside the meat-focused ones. Start with the three pakoras—mixed vegetable, eggplant, and spinach—which are always a crowd pleaser, regardless of your dietary habits. From there, pick either the baigan bharta (eggplant roasted in a clay oven with green peas and spices, in an onion and tomato gravy) or the paneer korma with homemade cottage cheese cooked in a creamy sauce, with almonds, nuts, and raisins. And soak up all the last bits on your plate with some naan or paratha.

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