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Bay Area trip... non-traditional Indian recommendations

r
risban Dec 24, 2012 01:58 PM

Hi. I will be visiting the Bay Area specifically to check out Indian street foods, kati rolls, chaat, etc.... I am not as interested in the typical buffet and curry houses that serve tandoori items, saags, tika masalas, etc...

I would appreciate recommendations for places that are doing something a bit unique and have a cool/hip non-traditional ambiance.

Food trucks and vegetarian suggestions would be great too!

On my list so so far:
Kasa
Tava
Curry Up Now
Dosa Reupblic
Vik's
Chatpatta Corner
Munch India

Thanks!

  1. h
    hungree May 20, 2013 10:59 AM

    JUHU beach club is my favorite right now... South indian street food right across from Bakesale Bettys.

    1. c
      ceekskat Jan 3, 2013 11:36 AM

      When Amber Cafe in Mountain View first opened several years ago, I was a big fan of their Awadhi lamb kebab wrap with unda paratha. Went there last year and found the quality had slipped. Perhaps it was an off day but just didn't taste fresh...still worth a visit for ideas. Another item to try here (keep meaning to) is the shammi kebab. Friend of mine swears this is delicious & I have to believe her since I think her homemade ones are divine. When asked why she bothers going out for these..."sometimes you just have a craving & it's easier to buy than go thru the hassle to make". Word to the wise, it is not cheap.

      http://www.amber-india.com/Indian-Res...

      As for veg dishes...pongal at Madras Cafe in Mtn. View is a must.

      1. Robert Lauriston Jan 3, 2013 10:50 AM

        Is this a research trip for a restaurant? If that's the case, I think you should take bbulkow's advice and spend the whole time in the South Bay. The density of Indian places is much higher and a huge percentage of the residents are Immigrants from India.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          bbulkow Jan 3, 2013 03:32 PM

          But there are no indian food trucks or "non traditional sources". I would spend 2 days in the south bay, a morning in SF and an afternoon in berkeley. If you eat at 15 chaat houses you might get some serious inspiration about where you want to take the Kati concept.

          1. re: bbulkow
            Robert Lauriston Jan 3, 2013 03:40 PM

            I don't think you need to leave Portland to learn everything you might want to know about food trucks and whatever.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              bbulkow Jan 3, 2013 06:16 PM

              That's funny and correct.

        2. r
          risban Jan 2, 2013 07:31 AM

          All your suggestions and recommendations have be quite helpful...thank you

          I have made a map of the places to check out (green - have to, yellow - would be nice, red - if there is time) BTW, there are a couple of bagel and ice cream shops on there.

          https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=...

          11 Replies
          1. re: risban
            psb Jan 2, 2013 09:40 AM

            I have to do some thumb twiddiing while this crunch job runs, so some random thoughts ...

            Is SPICE HUT the chain which sells a lot of pre-made breads? ... I dont mean like naan, roti type breads, I mean like Pau and western pastries? If so, based on the one time I went there -- with my Mom -- we both though it was "blah" for chaat. My apologies if am mis-associating the memory with the name.

            If you drive West on ECR from Nirvannah, at Fremont x Wolfe x El Camino, you have LOVLEY SWEET (sloppy, but decent chaat) and RAJJOT SWEET, and UDP Palace.

            If you branch up ECR, you pass by BENGALI SWEET or you can go down Fremont to Mary where you will find SARAVANA BHAVAN, as you indicate, but more importantly the CHEAP SAMOSA STORE across the street.

            If you then go up S. Mary back to ECR, just to your right/east on the north side of ECR is GENERICALLY NAMED CHAAT PLACE ... oh ok, from Yelp it appears to be called CHAAT HOUSE. This is my STANDARD chaat place in the south bay ... I'm not saying it is the best chaat ever [that was at a bus stand in Rajasthan :-) ], but factoring in convenience this is the family's regular spot.

            A block to the west, across the street on Grape Ave is the well-regarded TASTE BUDS (I have not easten there too many times, but I thought it was decent. But more relevantly, I think it may be completely the "standard repertoire" you are trying to avoid).

            BTW, although some find MITCHELLS ICE CREAM a bit passe, I still do like it, as I generally find myself liking fruit-based flavors more than crystallized lavender or whatever ... I think that is a good choice. I do like Humphrey Slocombe, which is worth a walk-by IMHO if you are a WISE SONS anyway and ice cream is a particular interest ... it's enough of an institution to be worth going by if you are there anyway [for other non-indian in the area is TAQUERIA VALLARTA for $1.75 tacos, PAL'S SANDO (limited hours) and DYNAMO DONUT for $3 donuts (I'm not sure if I believe they are worth it).

            I have not been to BOMBAY ICE CREAM since they moved to what seems to be an un-viable location, but it is sort of on the way from downtown to the Mission. There are some other decent Chaat Places downtown, like on Third? I believe I had some decent stuff at Mehfil. (these are weak recommends).

            TARTINE BAKERY (non-indian) is also a great institution which falls between AMBAR DHARA/KASA/DOSA ... I'd consider FILLMORE DOSA over MISSION DOSA and would recommend GAJALEE instead of AD (couple of blocks away).

            If you are transiting Fremont between South Bay and Berkeley, I'd do DANA BAZAR over CHATPATTA. Unless someone can advise DB on Mowry now sucks for some reason. DB was the king of the CHAAT RENAISSANCE (there was an extended Dark Age of Chaat after Vik's started to go down hill). DB also more convenient to the fwy.

            Oh wow, they are closed ... Sic Transit Gloria Chaat!
            http://www.yelp.com/biz/dana-bazar-fr...

            (notice the super-high rating

            )

            How does CHAAT BHAVAN compare with CHATPATTA? I went to CP a couple of times with all-Indo crews and I liked it less than the others. I think the Sunnyvale place is better.

            BTW, a number of us, including some CH people like LITTLE SICHUAN a couple of blocks form CP (good Sichuna Eggplant Fish dish). The R99 next to it had a really good mango dessert for $2.25. The also had a giant DAN TAT which I didnt try ... it was like $5 for a 8"-10" diameter.

            If I had time to spare and was driving through OAK, I'd try that "homey" Indian place Melanie Wong reported on a couple of times.

            Ok I have to go now.

            1. re: psb
              r
              risban Jan 2, 2013 05:19 PM

              Wow...thanks PSB. I will need some time to "digest" all this!

              1. re: psb
                Melanie Wong Jan 2, 2013 06:03 PM

                You're confuzzled about a few things.

                Dana Bazar was the name of the Indian grocery store that housed the original location of Chatpatta Corner. The grocery store closed some time ago and is now New India Bazaar. That's all that closed. The chaat concession is still in place as far as I can tell. Note that there is no seating, you stand up to eat street food style. And there used to be signs asking customers to not sit on the bags of basmati rice stacked up nearby.
                http://www.newindiabazar.us/

                Chatpatta Corner also has a location with counter service and seating in Fremont's Ardenwood neighborhood. The two locations are operated by a pair of sisters and their daughters. They go back and forth between the two.
                http://chatpattacorner.wix.com/fremontca94555

                I wouldn't say that the former Dana Bazar, now New India Bazaar is that much more convenient to the freeway. Ardenwood is a short distance off 84 and probably the same number of minutes to drive from 880.

                The place in Oakland is Masala Cuisine. More info in this link. I'll mention that when I last ate there, another customer ordered aloo tikki. Unlike the typical snacks place that has pre-cooked patties at the ready to be fried, Masala Cuisine gets your order then starts to peel, cube and cook the potatoes. It takes longer, but I bet their version is fab, and that's what I'm ordering next time.
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/752028

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  psb Jan 2, 2013 07:40 PM

                  Oh Hi Melanie.

                  When the chaat stand first opened in the store, *everyone* I knew referred to it as Dana Bazar (word of mouth in the Bengali and various other desi communitites). And yeah, you had to go out into the parking lot with a small styrofoam cup of water and sit on your car ... and keep going back in for more water. I dont know if they didnt have a name at that point (somewhere in the 1990s?) or just notionally had a name, i.e a laser printer sign on the wall, but the name had no traction. In fact when Chatpatta opened, it was explained to me as "the Dana Bazar people have opened a sitdown place called Chatpatta Corner".

                  I suppose this may have sacrificed the details of ownership for practical ends.

                  Yeah, I noticed in the Yelp Browser there as a New India Mkt at the old DB location ... and I see from the reviews that plenty of the reviews are for (gone downhill) chaat. It seems odd the Chatpatta web site doesnt refer to their two locations.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    bbulkow Jan 3, 2013 07:46 AM

                    OP,

                    Here's what I would suggest about a trip to the south bay, regarding your interest in "something different".

                    What you'll see in the south bay is actual authentic indian-food-for-indians. Sunnyvale has been colonized by the south indian tech crowd, and I know because my co-founder is from Chennai, and his wife, and now over half of my executive staff is indian, have of my board is south indian, we have an office in bangalore, I had a guest at Thanksgiving who brought Bengali Sweets. I have to get on a call with some guys in Pune in a minute.

                    That all being said,

                    I think you need a single Dosa place to put others in perspective. I would select board favorite Madura because it's a small little strip mall joint that's really good.

                    Consider Spice Hut. It's kind of the indian version of places like Curry Up Now, for locals, the indian way. "Steam table chinese" taken to Indian. What's interesting around dinner time is the number of people getting food for 4 or 5 and taking it to-go.

                    Bengali Sweets is a good call if you haven't had a selection of these indian sweets. There are a few places in the north bay that have these kind of sweets counters - the Bombay place at 16th and Mission used to have them (squeezed out?), Viceroy in Berkeley used to have them (counter on side as you came in), but it's been a long time since I've been to either. There's also Lovely Sweets and others.

                    You must go to Aachi Aappakadai. Although it's not a different concept, there are dishes there - chettinad - that you're unlikely to have eaten before, this is the cuisine that south indians think is spicy and interesting. I think the call has to be aappam with chicken curry, which is a bread bowl with curry in the middle where you eat the bowl down by tearing and using the bread to eat the curry as it soaks into the bottom, kind of like ethiopian food but with more bowl-ness. Aappakadi is in a repurposed mexican place, kind of like a taco bell, which is also interesting, but otherwise a straightforward sit down place.

                    Of the Chaat places, I think I would send you to Chaat Paradise, simply because I've been there more and my indian friends say its OK, although a quick Yelp search for "chaat" and "sunnyvale" will show you about 15 places. We've never had a solid board round-up, and if you're really interested in Chaat and are making a trip to see what's going on, you actually might consider spending a few days here, depending on how Epic your eating skills are. Service is often slow, so you could order Bhel Puri everywhere and compare, but it'll take you a solid day.

                    Curry Up Now has actually extended down here (PA for sure, just opened, haven't been) and we have branches of Shalimar and such. I wouldn't bother with these if you have limited time.

                    One of the most unusual places is the indian drive through place, which is a repurposed Jack in the Box. It's called Fusion 9, and it's kind of a skanky hole in the wall, but they were one of the winners of my epic Chicken 65 crawl. The other winner was Sneha, which is a typical "old school" indian place but they do the sloppy wet non-mcnugget style with a very good spice mix. I'd only recommend Sneha if you're on an extended trip, but the food is solid.
                    Link to crawl
                    http://www.sanjose.com/restaurants/ar...

                    If you want to see what an upscale indian place could look like, stop at downtown palo alto and peek inside Amber Dhara and I would have said peek inside Mantra, but it looks like it's CLOSED, the sadness. If you're hungry in the area, and haven't had fresh israli style hummus (not the middle eastern style which is all I've eaten in the US), stop at very informal Oren's and just get a bowl of classic. Worth a detour.

                    Do not go to Saravanna Bhavan, because it's just a typical restaurant concept. Do not go to Arka, because it's all upscale-y and the food's not that good. I would steer you away from Sakoon if you're going to come down for an afternoon, because there's more interesting things to eat. It's not _that_ different.

                    1. re: bbulkow
                      r
                      risban Jan 3, 2013 10:09 AM

                      Thank you for the super Informative reply. I have three days here so I can definitely take you up on your recommendations.

                      Your suggestion to set a baseline for the South Indian stuff is a good idea since there is so much of it here.

                      Please feel free to suggest any other places that have not been mentioned for kati rolls and parathas.

                      1. re: risban
                        Robert Lauriston Jan 3, 2013 10:22 AM

                        Chaat bhavan makes a big deal about their parathas, they were good but I was not wildly impressed.

                        1. re: risban
                          s
                          sambamaster Jan 3, 2013 10:39 AM

                          good luck with your food cart (or mini-restaurant) in PDX. sort of amusing to watch this!!!!

                          1. re: risban
                            bbulkow Jan 3, 2013 03:28 PM

                            You might try Kaati Fresh, san jose, as their name has Kaati in the title. I haven't been, or even had one of these rolls you speak of (looks like a tikka burrito to me). For this kind of broad based research (like, eat all the kaati rolls in the south bay) I use yelp as a first source (not for ratings, just for the list of restaurants) then visit all the restaurant's pages and see who is really serving. When I did my "15 chicken 65 in one evening" I would call ahead and get a to-go order that was ready by the time I showed up, eat in the parking lot, take notes, call the next place, and drive. A co-pilot can make it all much easier, too.

                          2. re: bbulkow
                            m
                            mdg Jan 3, 2013 09:25 PM

                            Interesting write-up on Chicken 65! Now I understand why I've been confused about the deep-fry / stir-fry distinction. The stir-fried version sounds like a chicken version of Apollo Fish, one of my favorite dishes that I first tried at Marigold in Palo Alto many years ago. Currently Peacock in Mountain View does an excellent spicy version. The Menu on the other side of Mountain View has a different version with bigger pieces of fish and less spice, but still delicious. It would be great to know if you have any Sunnyvale-area favorites for the stir-fried Chicken 65.

                            For the OP, most of the South Indian places have awesome paratha dishes, including Madura and Madras Cafe. But between that and the kati rolls, it looks like maybe you're trying to find Bengali food? If so may be looking in the wrong place. Bengali restaurants are few and far between here; we've had some good ones that have been short-lived. The local Indian population is largely from the south rather than the east, so south Indian is what we do really well.

                            Michael

                            1. re: bbulkow
                              escargot3 May 20, 2013 10:55 AM

                              Tried to go to Fusion 9 yesterday, but it appears to have closed.

                      2. m
                        mdg Dec 29, 2012 12:16 PM

                        If you are coming to the Bay Area for Indian food I think you do need to come to the South Bay. San Francisco has certainly been closing the gap in the past few years, but if you skip the South Bay you'll miss the Gongura special dishes at Taste Buds; the fabulous rava dosa plus Tamil Nadu vegetarian specialties at Madura; the great dosas at Madras Cafe; the appam and other Chettinad specialties at Aachi Aappakadai; the great Apollo Fish at Peacock in Mountain View, plus so much more.

                        Arka in Sunnyvale and Sakoon in Mountain View are good for more upscale / hip / non-traditional ambiance, but perhaps not any more so than Dosa in the Fillmore or other San Francisco places. I love Amber India in Mountain View but am not a big fan of either the Amber Dhara or Amber Cafe nearby. The Menu in Mountain View has nice upscale food with fine ingredient quality, but the ambiance isn't at the same level as Sakoon or Arka. I was not impressed with All Spice in San Mateo a few months ago; the name is ironic considering the blandness of the food.

                        Enjoy!

                        Michael

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mdg
                          r
                          risban Jan 2, 2013 07:35 AM

                          Thanks for your South Indian expertise...even though it is not the focus of the trip, I will def try to check them.

                          Sakoon's menu looks a nice modern twist to standard fare...I have added it to my list.

                        2. m
                          Malcolm Ruthven Dec 28, 2012 11:01 AM

                          Lotus Chaat and Spices in San Rafael (North of SF) is quite good. Great flavors and textures. In fact, I think I'll go there for lunch today :-)

                          http://lotuschaat.com

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Malcolm Ruthven
                            r
                            risban Dec 28, 2012 12:35 PM

                            Malcolm...this place looks very interesting! I did not even consider the SR area...ughh I may need to extend my trip an extra day. Thanks. ;)

                            1. re: Malcolm Ruthven
                              m
                              Malcolm Ruthven Dec 28, 2012 03:19 PM

                              Today I had the Paneer Dosa ($11.99), dosa stuffed with home-made cheese, onions and served with a bowl of sambar
                              and coconut sauce. Very tasty!

                               
                               
                            2. kungful Dec 28, 2012 09:34 AM

                              I know the OP is looking for "street food", but for something different for a nice evening out, how about All Spice in San Mateo ? It just earned it's michelin star for it's Indian/California Cuisine hybrid.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: kungful
                                Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2012 09:38 AM

                                Any recent reports here on All Spice? Michael Bauer just did an update and said that the food seemed muted and had lost most of its Indian spices compared with last year.

                              2. r
                                risban Dec 28, 2012 08:25 AM

                                How is Ambar Cafe in Mountain View, the counter service concept? Are the chaat items and kati rolls any good there?

                                Also noticed there is Amber Dhara serving "modern" Indian cuisine...any positive notes?

                                Thanks.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: risban
                                  t
                                  tardigrade Dec 28, 2012 09:25 AM

                                  I've had lunch at Amber Dhara in Palo Alto a few times: rather than a buffet, they serve thalis at lunch. I thought they were good.

                                  There's also The Menu (a.k.a., "That place where Swagat used to be") on El Camino near the Palo Alto/Mountain View line, which claims to be artisinal Indian cuisine. Their lunch buffet had some uncommon items.

                                  1. re: tardigrade
                                    r
                                    risban Dec 28, 2012 12:36 PM

                                    Thanks for the Ambar Dhara confirmation.

                                    The only thing that looked "different" on "The Menu's" website is kale pakodas...everything else is seems to be standard fare. But the buffet could have different stuff.

                                2. d
                                  dlobo Dec 25, 2012 12:37 PM

                                  If you are willing to travel to sausalito, there is a small family run indian place, sartaj, on caledonia street (near the fire station), a few mins away from downtown sausalito.

                                  the couple has been serving "home style" north indian food for a long time now (15+ years?) Our favorites there include: spicy indian eggs, omelette, samosa chole, alu paratha

                                  The food while good is very very different from shalimar (which is another of our favorites, but would fall under the generic pakistani / north indian style)

                                  lobo

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: dlobo
                                    Robert Lauriston Dec 25, 2012 12:52 PM

                                    Chole and aloo paratha are southern dishes. Sartaj's menu doesn't seem to have any particular regional focus.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      r
                                      risban Dec 25, 2012 03:01 PM

                                      Robert...over the decades, dishes and recipes have crossed over- but I believe parathas and chole originated in the northern/Punjab region.

                                      1. re: risban
                                        Robert Lauriston Dec 25, 2012 03:07 PM

                                        Huh, you're right. My bad.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          psb Dec 25, 2012 04:06 PM

                                          You have been reported to Rahulk.
                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/400385

                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                        d
                                        dlobo Dec 25, 2012 04:41 PM

                                        garbanzo beans (the thing in chole) is used in many places in India. The dish chole bhatura is very typical north indian. On the konkan coast, u get a dry dish with garbanzo beans and shredded coconut. I dont think gajalee has this dish, but it might appear there :)

                                        lobo

                                    2. Robert Lauriston Dec 25, 2012 10:43 AM

                                      Tara's in Berkeley isn't Indian but they make some of the best saffron and cardamom ice creams I've had.

                                      1. r
                                        risban Dec 24, 2012 04:22 PM

                                        Thank you kindly for the quick replies.

                                        Dosa does have an interesting menu...would you the recommend the Valencia or Fillmore location?

                                        For kati rolls, have I missed any places or trucks that are worth checking out?

                                        I will have a car and will be able to drive to the different parts of the BA.

                                        Thanks.

                                        17 Replies
                                        1. re: risban
                                          Robert Lauriston Dec 24, 2012 04:30 PM

                                          Dosa's Fillmore location has a slightly longer menu, though not as much longer as it used to be.

                                          1. re: risban
                                            psb Dec 24, 2012 04:44 PM

                                            The FILLMORE location makes one feel like you're out for an occasion in the big city. The VALENCIA space is closer to white tablecloth in suburban strip mall.

                                            i'd say the main reason to go the the MISSION space if if you want to end up in the mission for one reason or another ... say you want to go to H. SLOCOMBE afterwards etc.

                                            1. re: psb
                                              moto Dec 24, 2012 05:25 PM

                                              as far as a comfy place to have a meal, the Valencia Dosa provides that while Vik's doesn't quite, for our preferences anyway. we like the cooking at Dosa better, granted the portions and pricing are both less friendly, and maybe just being more relaxed and comfy improves things. haven't tried the Fillmore Dosa.

                                              1. re: moto
                                                Robert Lauriston Dec 24, 2012 05:28 PM

                                                Vik's is nicer than when it was in the original location, but it's a bare-bones cafeteria sort of place with paper plates and plastic forks.

                                            2. re: risban
                                              psb Dec 24, 2012 06:03 PM

                                              BTW, I see you are from OREGON ... I am not sure what the indian food situation is up there, but if you are going to the South Bay/Fleemont, you might also try the INDIAN SWEET STORES and perhaps INDIAN ICE CREAM. At lest for the former, you can take it with you.

                                              BTW, the SAMOSAS in the indian market across the street from SARAVANA BHAVAN are really good ... they are quite large too and crazy cheap at 75cents (as of October).

                                              1. re: psb
                                                r
                                                risban Dec 24, 2012 06:10 PM

                                                Hi PSB...thanks for the suggestions. Were you referring to Real Ice Cream on El Camino Real in Santa Clara? Which place for sweets?

                                                Is there anyone doing samosas with different fillings (besides the standard punjabi or kheema)?

                                                1. re: risban
                                                  psb Dec 24, 2012 06:26 PM

                                                  I havent done any high fidelity comparisons between REAL and NIRVANAH or the "standard" sweet places ... RANGOLI, BENGALI SWEET etc. Those were just ideas for things other than BUTTER CHICKEN and SAAG PANEER ... the main thing to emphasize if the standard for pretty much everything indian is higher in Freemont/South Bay vs SF/Berkeley ... unless you must have a cocktail/glass of wine with your meal, in which case the strip mall type places dont compare to DOSA / AMBAR / other fancy places.

                                                  Oh also Freemont area options are SALANG PASS/DA AFGHAN KEBAB HOUSE (e.g. Chapli Kebab), pumkin dishes, dumplings etc. I dont love any of the Nepali places I've been.

                                                  1. re: psb
                                                    Robert Lauriston Dec 25, 2012 10:37 AM

                                                    The average Indian place is probably better in the South Bay, but I don't think the best are any better. I made a special trip to Milpitas to try Tirupathi Bhimas and did not find it very different or better than Udupi Palace in Berkeley. Chaat Bhavan in Fremont is good, but I prefer Vik's parathas.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      Melanie Wong Dec 25, 2012 10:57 AM

                                                      As a counterpoint, I was eating frequently at Tirupathi Bhimas in Milpitas covering most of the menu during the same period you visited it and found it significantly better than Udupi Palace in Berkeley which is the weakest of the UPs. From the quality of the achar, chutney and podi condiments, to the depth and brightness of seasoning of the Andhra dishes, execution of textures, subtle complexity of the rasam, the skill in cooking rice, and greater variety and freshness of vegetables (e.g., drumsticks, gongura) used in the thalis.
                                                      http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=19407...

                                                      But I have not been there for a several years. At the time I had a client in Fremont (and tried all the South Indian places there as well), and would head to Milpitas whenever I could take some extra time at lunch to eat at Bhimas instead.

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                        chefj Dec 25, 2012 12:33 PM

                                                        We go to Tirupathi Bhimas in Milpitas regularly. It is still eons better than Udupi Palace in Berkeley (which ranges from truly horrible to barley mediocre.) or the Udupi in the city which has slipped way down in the last couple of years.
                                                        Madura Indian Vegetarian Cuisine in Sunnyvale is even better that Tirupathi Bhimas though a little too far for our regular weekend outing.

                                                        1. re: chefj
                                                          Robert Lauriston Dec 25, 2012 12:48 PM

                                                          I wonder if I get better food at Udupi because we tend to go when it's not busy?

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            chefj Dec 25, 2012 01:18 PM

                                                            We were regulars there and quite friendly with the staff. We did not eat there at particularly busy times.
                                                            It was a long and steady downward spiral for them, but that was many years ago now so who knows? The SF location was good at first but has seemed to follow the same death spiral. I was there 3 months ago and it was as bad as the Berkeley location when we stopped going there.
                                                            I am always surprised to hear you say that T.B. was not very different than U.P. in Berkeley. I find them to be night and day.

                                                            1. re: chefj
                                                              moto Dec 26, 2012 02:50 AM

                                                              years ago we were also semi-regulars at Udupi in berserkley, but our experience was similar to yours ; our last visit was 3-4 years ago and the food seemed stale and lifeless compared to other places that serve dosa, uttapam and the like.

                                                  2. re: risban
                                                    Melanie Wong Dec 24, 2012 06:43 PM

                                                    Real Ice Cream has been the standard for many years and has two locations now. But I prefer the newcomer, Nirvanah.

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                      r
                                                      risban Dec 25, 2012 03:01 PM

                                                      Thanks Melanie...I will def have to check out Nirvanah!

                                                2. re: risban
                                                  t
                                                  tjinsf Dec 27, 2012 12:25 AM

                                                  Depends on what kind of crowd and service you would like. The fillmore space is bigger but the atmosphere is less relaxed and more suits and straightened hair. The valencia space is smaller but friendly. The dosas are better and cheaper at Udupi Palace but it's not a designer decorated space and they aren't trying to upmarket.

                                                  1. re: risban
                                                    cosmogrrl Dec 28, 2012 01:21 PM

                                                    I also recommend Dosa. I really enjoyed the Fillmore location, and the yummy cocktails. The food really is slightly different, and better than the standard places. Hrrmmm, now i want to eat there.

                                                  2. Robert Lauriston Dec 24, 2012 04:19 PM

                                                    The best Indian food I've had in Berkeley recently was at Mount Everest, a Nepali place.

                                                    I've had some really good dishes at Ajanta.

                                                    I've gotten some good food from Chaat Bhavan, though I haven't ordered chaat there.

                                                    I haven't thought that any of the other places I've tried chaat were better than Vik's, or that any of the South Indian places I've tried were better than Udupi Palace.

                                                    1. v
                                                      vulber Dec 24, 2012 02:54 PM

                                                      viva goa (goan), gajalee (konkani), DOSA (upscale south indian), udupi palace (downscale south indian), anjappar chettinad (chettinad). that being said, dosa is the only one of those that has a "hip" ambience. viva goa's ambience (and service) is very "relaxed", which my friends tell me is typical of restaurants in goa.

                                                      haven't been, but several friends have said chaat bhavaan is better than vik's (which is indeed excellent, but nothing special ambience-wise)

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: vulber
                                                        psb Dec 24, 2012 03:54 PM

                                                        I dont go to Vik's often these days, but I "check in" about once a year, and for +10yrs now, i think Vik's has been "phoning it in" when it comes to chaat. In my experience, any random place on ECR between say Lawrence Expy and Mtn View will be better ... you can search the board for more details.
                                                        Some of my desi friends like various non-chaat items there ... I havent tried enough of those. But they also live >1mi from there, so this is more about convenience than being singular.

                                                        Same goes for the random strip mall places in Freemont. (> Viks). Vik's is acceptable I suppose, and I can understand wanting to "check off" an institution, but I wouldnt single it out.

                                                        Now I suppose I dont have a head and shoulders better option for Berkeley, but the OP didnt ask in particular about Berkeley.

                                                        If this is a major focus of the OP's BA trip, worth a drive to Freemont for this and various other ethnic food options.

                                                        Agree Gajalee is one of the more unusal options, e.g. shell fish on an indian menu. Is that JUHU place in a stable location now?

                                                        There is also the "indian pizza" in the non-canonical bucket.

                                                        ok tnx.

                                                        1. re: psb
                                                          Dave MP Jan 2, 2013 10:50 PM

                                                          I went to Vik's yesterday (New Year's Day) for the first time in several years. Last time I was there was before they re-did the place. It wasn't nearly as good as I remembered it.

                                                          Bhel Puri was still pretty good, and a nice generous serving. A bit heavy on the onion for my taste, but had a nice crunch and was medium spicy. My masala dosa was disappointing. The dosa itself was crisp and tasty, but the filling was bland—almost like what you'd expect if you were served masala dosa in a high-school cafeteria (frozen peas and carrots, mashed potato). The sambar wasn't to my liking, either. Watery, not very spicy or well-spiced. The sambar at Ruchi, which is probably the sambar I've had most recently, blows it out of the water. See: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/849410

                                                          My dining companion had the chicken biryani, which was actually pretty tasty, though not that interesting. I also tried a mango lassi which was on the small side, and pre-mixed, but pretty good.

                                                          Vik's is a fun place, and it's a fun scene, but to me the food has gone downhill. I don't think I'd bother bringing visitors there.

                                                          1. re: Dave MP
                                                            d
                                                            dlobo Jan 3, 2013 07:13 AM

                                                            I think viks does a few dishes really well. IMO, their south indian dishes (dosa, idli) are a bit beyond awful. Though the dosa batter from their store makes really good dosas at home!

                                                            The dishes we like there include:

                                                            chole batura (though the batura there is a bit more like a large puri_ and a bit greasy. Their lamb baida roti and chicken kati rolls are also quite good. We also like the sev puri and aloo tiki chole

                                                            The kids also like the lassi, and when they had the kids menu, the small aloo paratha

                                                            lobo and maya and pj (my 10 and 9 year old kids who contributed to this post)

                                                            1. re: dlobo
                                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 3, 2013 10:23 AM

                                                              The parathas are my favorite thing at Vik's.

                                                              Second on the Lamb baida roti (weekends only?)

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