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San Francisco Indian

We will be bringing the family to San Francisco this summer. First question, does San Francisco have an Indian/Pakistani section of town (like NYC has Jackson Heights)? Also would like recommendations for Indian food - wherever they are in San Francisco. We will not have a car, but anywhere we can reach with public transit is great. We don't mind going out of the way for a fine meal. We are not vegetarians, and prefer Northern Indian cuisine, but still have great apprecation for good vegetarian or South Indian cuisine. Pakistani OK too, Bengali or Afghani - not so much.
Thanks much!

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  1. The large Indian population is in the South Bay and Fremont (about 1 hr away). But there are a few restaurants that are centered in the Tenderloin. I like Chutney


    and Lahore Karahi


    1 Reply
    1. re: baron45

      Indians have been immigrating to the bay area for tech jobs above all, so it shouldn't be surprising that the epicenter of SF indian food is Silicon Valley. Search for the town of Sunnyvale, although there are great down home gems within a 10 mile radius. My personal favorite is called Mayuri, but it's not a one-hour-drive destination.

      This should point out some of the nature of "san francisco" - SF can be the city itself, and the handful of neighborhoods in the north-east corner of the city where tourists and businessmen congregate, or it can be seen as the "greater bay area", an extraordinarily vibrant set of cities within about an hour of SF. One hour from San Francisco covers millions and millions of people, cultures, immigrant waves, and FOOD.

      San Jose vehemently denies that they are part of San Francisco, as they're a larger city growing faster, but from a distance you would be forgiven as seeing it all as San Francisco. Regrettably, San Jose has few tourist attractions - the best is probably the Tech Museum. Sillicon Valley is a general concept too - it's certainly Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, whether you extend a little depends on the axe you're grinding.

      Would an interesting family day be caltrain down the peninsula, enjoy the tech museum? Maybe. Some people are nostalgic about trains. But then you'd ask us for downtown SJ food recommendations. Downtown SJ is a little dire - it's a highly car-based town, with the good eats in strip malls scattered all about. You'd be better asking for good eats within a short walk from a caltrain station, which for Indian would be Tumeric, very near the Sunnyvale caltrain. There are many great eats around the Mountain View, California Ave, and Palo Alto caltrain stations.

      There was an excellent thread about silicon valley indian buffets a few weeks ago, one person ranked Turmeric the highest. Still, it's a nice round up.

      Which isn't to say San Francisco doesn't have its share of indian joints as previously noted. I agree with those posted. As a general rule, SF is good at cheap little indian joints, not at fancy places, but I hear dosa is medium-fancy and tasty.

      If you see a dish called Chicken 65, order it! I've only seen it in the bay area, it somehow migrated over from Bombay.

      No one has mentioned Vik's Chaat Corner, a berkeley institution. It's right off the freeway in an industrial area, so if you have any errand that takes you east across the bridge and you're interested in indian, it's worth a stop. Very family friendly. Search, there have been multiple threads. Ajanta in Berkeley is also much recommended, although harder to get to.

    2. As baron45 implies, there is no Indian/S.Asian population center here in SF. There are more Indian venues in the S.Bay and in Berkeley. I don't know the S.Bay scene so well, and the places I go to in Berkeley are not exactly destination worthy, IMO.

      In SF the star of the show these days is Dosa which features S.Indian dishes - dosa, uttapan, some chaat. The newer location is really very attractive. I just went there and had a great time. Highly recommended. I've been to the Valencia street location many times too and that is also a lot of fun.

      Frankly, for more traditional Indian food, nothing stands out for me. There are many sturdy, likable places I frequent, but nothing that rises above.

      995 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

      Dosa on Fillmore
      1700 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

      1. I think the closest thing to an "indian section" are the three Indian restaurants within a block of each other along Valencia St.: Dosas, Udupi, Aslams. For southern Indian, Dosa's is quite good though the service can be uneven. Aslam's is very good northern indian but I view it more as a neighborhood place than a destination.

        Aslam's Rasoi
        1039 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        1 Reply
        1. re: SFDude

          Is the Tandoorloin not still the Tandoorloin? Most of the restaurants in that area are hole-in-the wall "curry dives" but there are some better places, like Sultan.

          340 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

        2. you might enjoy De Afghanan on Polk St, which would be easy to get to from many parts of the city. Not quite Pakistani of course, but also not as oily as some Pakistani eateries in this area. Not what most would call a fine meal, because it's a true bare bones, hole in the wall, but the food is made with care and tasty, so you could try lunch there perhaps. There are some Indo-Pakistani places in the general vicinity as well (the cited Sultan on
          O'Farrell for example), and they have been pretty thoroughly reviewed by various
          'hounds. enjoy your visit

          5 Replies
          1. re: moto

            Thanks to everyone for the responses. I must say, the SF Chowhound board is fantastic! Having never been to SF myself, I had a million questions. After searching the boards, I ended up with only the Indian cuisine in question. Thanks so much for your help, we are really looking forward to the visit and a variety of cuisines (and fresh seafood!) that are somewhat lacking here in the midwest.

            1. re: foodiefamily

              Enjoy your trip!

              One of the top Indian places in Silicon Valley, where we have lots of Indian restaurants, is Amber India. They now have a branch in San Francisco. I have not been to the San Francisco location, but if it is as good as the Mountain View and San Jose locations, it should be a real treat. It's on the high end for Indian restaurants, but worth it.


              Amber India
              Mission and Fourth, San Francisco, CA

              1. re: mdg

                Amber India in San Francisco is excellent and the space is beautiful. Service is also great and the location is very convenient. It is high end and on the expensive side for an Indian restaurant but, as far as I'm concerned, it's worth it.

            2. re: moto

              How does the food at De Afghanan stack up against Helmand Palace's?

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I like both places but I go to DE AFGAN specifically for the CHAPLI KEBAB,
                which is good about 75% of the time. Occasionally I've had the feeling I got a
                "remainder" (and the kebab "sides" are so-so).

                To me the reason to pick one or the other isnt so much quality of the food, but the
                nature of the dining experience you want ... "real restaurant" vs. quick plate of food
                with a soda. for ~$12 in 30min.

            3. This place is not Indian, but if you like Indian food, you would probably enjoy Little Nepal, a very good and friendly restaurant. We like the Momos, the Samosa and the lamb or chicken cooked in the tandoor oven, The curries are also good.

              Little Nepal
              925 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

              1. I needed Indian food tonight and wanted to try something new so went to Chutney as recommended in this thread... and it prompted me to post for the first time in a long while. I honestly don't remotely see how Lahore Karahi and Chutney can be uttered in the same sentence. Chutney was, not only not good, but probably the worst Indian Food I have had in the bay area period. The Lamb in the Vindaloo was a nondescript tasteless grey mess, which was covered in the most oily curry I have ever encountered. There was probably twice as much oil and anything else. The mutter paneer and the korma were totally characterless, pretty much identical, and only slightly less oily as the Vindaloo. I sent back the Vindaloo and go the Chicken Tikka Masala instead thinking you cant possibly mess that up, but was still surprised to find that it could only have been made with canned tomato soup, probably mixed with yogurt and the same old spice blend they put in everything else. Totally unsatisfying Indian food experience.

                Lahore Karahi is delicious. Ajanta is delicious. Udupi Palace is better than Dosa in my opinion. Aslams's Rasoi is very good but a bit pricier.

                Generally Naan N Chutney and even the late Tikka Masala were decent in a fix.

                But stay far far away from Chutney.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Lord Griffin

                  Adding a link.

                  511 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                2. Would agree with most people that the best and most authentic Indian food is to be found in the South Bay or Fremont. However, two of my favorite Indian restaurants do have branches in San Francisco. I've never been to the San Francisco locations, but if the food is as good as their other locations then you're in luck.

                  For a nice sit-down dinner, Amber India is great. I've been to both their Mountain View and San Jose locations and it is a nice, classy place with excellent food. Their butter chicken is one of my favorites.

                  Shalimar is more of a hole-in-the-wall place (at least the one in Fremont where I regularly get takeout). It's technically Indo-Pakistani but they have all the classic Northern Indian dishes. The chicken tikka masala here is my favorite.

                  532 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                  Amber India
                  Mission and Fourth, San Francisco, CA

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: arlenemae

                    I would agree with Amber India. I've only been to their SF location, evne though the main attractions are supposed to be the South Bay ones. Go for lunch and get the buffet - it's going to be the most expensive Indian buffet you've ever had - at $16.95 - but it's a steal for the quality of the food you'll get, and the opportunity to sample all of the different dishes.

                    Their signature dish is the butter chicken, which compeltely lives up to the hype, but one in particular that I like there htat doesn't get a lot of mentioning is their gajar halva - a sweet carrot/cardamom/raisin pudding.

                    For the opposite end of the spectrum, I would recommend Vik's.