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Bay Area trip... non-traditional Indian recommendations

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!

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  1. 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

      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

        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

          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

            The parathas are my favorite thing at Vik's.

            Second on the Lamb baida roti (weekends only?)

    2. 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. 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

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

          1. re: risban

            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

              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

                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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        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

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

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            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

                              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

                    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

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

                2. re: risban

                  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

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

                    1. 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

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

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

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

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            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