It’s safe to assume that tacos are always on every Austinite’s mind. However, once in a blue moon, whether we like to admit it or not, we have thoughts of a more exotic flavor profile, from a land far away. When you find yourself in search of cuisine that’s more around the world than south of the border, these five restaurants serving Indian food in Austin are sure to satisfy.
1/ G’Raj Mahal
This food truck turned brick and mortar is serving both traditional and innovative Indian comfort food in the heart of Rainey Street. Chef Sydney Robert’s dream was to bring Western Indian cuisine to our capital city. So in November 2009, she opened a food truck in a used car lot. She decked the G’Raj Mahal space out with tables and tents imported from India. Soon after, she married her husband, Anthony, who was born and raised in Goa, India. To her new husband’s surprise, Robert added authentic Goa dishes to the menu.
In 2013, Robert moved G’Raj Mahal into a converted house on Rainey Street. Today, the cafe and lounge continue to serve the same high-quality Indian cuisine as the food truck once did. Both the beef and pork are free-range and sourced from a local farm, while the lamb, chicken, and goat are grass-fed and Halal blessed. Stop by to get a made-to-order curry dish (let your server know how spicy you’d like your meal). You may even catch a glimpse of Anthony hand-rolling samosa dough!
73 Rainey St. – Website
2/ Whip In
“Housing over 65 drafts, 300 retail craft beers, and 400+ bottles of wine, The Whip In is a staple of enduring Austin culture,” states the website of this 31-year-old local business. In 1986, the Topiwala family purchased a former gas station along I-35 and transformed it into the first craft bottle shop in Austin.
Through the years, the unusual grocer has served the residents of Travis Heights. Now it’s cooking up Dhaba-style Indian street food with Gujarati flare that draws residents from all neighborhoods—even some out-of-towners.
Head Chef, Chandan Topiwala, makes her food from scratch with locally-sourced ingredients, and adds a dose of Tex-Mex flavor to create unique Indian fusion cuisine. Sample the spicy goat Frito pie, lamb or vegan samosas, or the mouth-watering beer marinated tempeh burger. Andrew Zimmerman called Whip In’s provisions “elegant stoner food,” but most Austinites just call it good.
1950 S. I-35 Frontage Road – Website
Mumbai meets Austin at this eastside restaurant that’s putting a Middle Eastern spin on tacos, enchiladas, and even the margarita. Owner Mahesh Shinde had a grand vision of fusing his favorite native flavors with quintessential Austin fare.
From his vision, dishes such as the Tikka Con Queso, chicken tandoori tacos, and paneer quesadillas were born. As I mentioned, even the classic margarita got a makeover at Nasha. Try the curried or cardamom margarita to wake up your palate. It’s Indian soul food that you’re sure to “nasha,” or crave.
1614 East 7th St. – Website
4/ Bombay Dhaba
Bombay Dhaba’s executive chef, Prabhakar Reddy, called India home for the first 25 years of his life before he immigrated to the United States. Reddy worked as a chef not only in India, but at multiple restaurants in Texas, before opening his own food truck. It was always his dream to serve high-quality, authentic cuisine, and he figured a food truck was the most viable way to do so.
Working in other restaurants allowed Reddy to master the traditional spices and flavors of his homeland in order to create native delicacies. Think fluffy Naan, fried samosas, Tikka Masala, and even exotic mango custard. According to the chef, it’s food “that caters to sophisticated tastes.”
1207 S. 1st – Website
5/ Masala Dhaba
While the “Girls, girls girls. Just kidding food trailers” neon sign on Rainey Street may catch your attention, it’s undoubtedly the smell of Masala Dhaba’s garlic naan and chicken Tikka masala that will make you sit and stay awhile.
This family-owned food truck serves up authentic Indian cuisine on the edge of downtown Austin. Chef Sajeed came to the U.S. from Southern India in 1998 and has been cooking with his brother for the last 10 years. It’s only for the past four years that he and his family have been running their food truck under the funny and often Instagrammed neon sign.
Did I mention this food truck is open until 3 a.m. on the weekends, just in case you need a late night snack before you leave Rainey Street?
75 Rainey St. – Facebook
Make it an all-day event and nom your way through this list or keep it in your back pocket for days when you feel like being adventurous!
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your go-to spot for Indian food in Austin?
Samantha Saenz is a South Austin resident, copywriter, and purveyor of adventure. Stick with her, and you’ll go places—mainly to food trucks and swimmin’ holes.
The original version of this article was published July 7, 2017.