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Eat Like A Native: An Indian Expat on What to Buy, Where to Go

Eat Like A Native: Dosa's Anjan Mitra on Bay Area Indian Food

Emily and Anjan Mitra. [Photo: Jennifer Yin]

Anjan Mitra is the owner of both San Francisco locations of Dosa - Indian restaurants that are anything but your typical chicken tikka, lunch buffet-serving joint. Mitra and his wife Emily opened the first Dosa on Valencia St. in 2005 because they wanted to fill a hole they saw in the Indian food around town.

No one was serving the cuisine of Southern India, and there definitely wasn't much concern for organic, sustainable ingredients. At the time, Mitra was working in technology and Emily owned a Fillmore St. health food store. They toyed around with opening an organic diner, but the idea of a Southern Indian restaurant focused on organic, sustainable ingredients was way more exciting.

Mitra spent the first 18 years of his life immersed in "the glamor of urban India" that Bombay has to offer, and he continues to take trips back with his family every few years. Although he says it's hard to find great Indian food in San Francisco proper, Mitra shared a few thoughts with us on where to go and what to buy. 

1. Indian teas, ayurvedic medicine, and spicy junk food like Chakli and Chevda from Coconut Hill in Fremont (46129 Warm Springs Blvd.)

My cousin, Nandini Pai lives in Fremont and goes here all the time.

2. Chaat, spices, rice and lentils at Vik's Chaat Corner & Market in Berkeley (2390 4th St.)

Vik's is a combination grocery and cafe in Berkeley that has great chaat for lunch. The largest part of the business is distribution and the owners import all their spices directly from India. They have the most consistenly high quality ingredients around, and we use them at Dosa. I recommend buying cumin, rice, lentils, coriander and cloves in bulk here. It's a way better value than what you can find at Whole Foods. 

3. Pani puri at New India Bazaar in Fremont (5113 Mowry Ave.)

In my opinion they serve the best pani puri in the Bay Area. This is a very popular street snack in Bombay: basically hollow bread-like puffs that you fill with seasoned chickpeas, potato, spicy mint water and tamarind. We have a version at Dosa for brunch. Good stuff!

4. Indian pickles (achaar) and snack foods at Jai Ho (1462 Fillmore St.)

Jai Ho is an Indian exclamation. This is a small family-run place that's nicely organized and clean right in the Safeway plaza by our Fillmore Street restaurant. 

5. Chicken Tikka Masala, Aloo Jeera or Turkey Kebabs at Kasa Indian Eatery (4001 18th St.) 

I think they have integrity in what they do: good Indian fast food at affordable prices.