Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Pop-Ups, Acme Rolls and Paneer Burritos: The New Indian

Remember The Chai Cart? It was only two years ago that self-described "corporate slave" Paawan Kothari decided to quit her job in the high-tech world and follow her passion. She started selling authentic Indian chai from a bicycle trailer, peddling around the Mission and SoMa with her freshly brewed drinks until the bike was stolen from her garage last summer, and her street biz, sadly, came to an abrupt halt.

Kothari deserves mention as one of the first to the Indian street vendor game. As she considers getting back into it —you can still buy her freshly made products at Rainbow Grocery, Whole Foods and Bi-Rite—Indian food options are quickly sprouting up all over the city. 

Kasa Indian Eatery might have closed its Marina brick-and-mortar shop earlier this month, but they dove into the pop-up world with a weekly event at The Corner. Chef Anamika Khanna says the format allows her to put out very traditional dishes that are harder to create in a streamlined restaurant atmosphere. Her pop-up's fixed price menu includes rarities like dhokla (savory chick pea cakes) and phool makhaney (sauteed lotus seeds). This coming Wednesday, the $20 menu begins with sambar and wadas chips with coconut chutney and moves on to a second course of coconut cauliflower, green bean and carrot curry with lemon curry leaf rice and braised baby turnips with their greens. Everything's served wtih chutneys, sauces and, of course, dessert. Email popup at kasaindian dot com for reservations.

Inspired by Kogi in LA, Rana and Akash Kapoor started one of the first Indian themed food trucks in the country with Curry Up Now here in San Francisco in September of 2009. Today, its three trucks strong and there's a brick-and-mortar fast-casual spinoff coming mid-April in San Mateo. Like its Filipino relatives, Curry Up Now figured out early on their authentic dishes are much easier to swallow wrapped in a tortilla. Their chicken tikka masala and paneer burritos are best sellers and they also offer an aloo pranha quesadilla as a special. But it's not all Mexico-meets-India. Try their deconstructed samosas, kathi rolls and specials like goat curry. Find Curry Up Now at all Off the Grid locations and weekdays on Bush and Sansome from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Follow: @CurryUpNow.

We recently introduced you to Top Chef alum Preeti Mistry's new pop-up Juhu Beach Club, featuring India- and California-inspired takes on everyday lunch fare such as a red curry slow-braised short rib sandwich with cucumber raita and a Petaluma chicken patty marinated in "over 15 things" and topped with yogurt green cabbage slaw—both between Acme buns. Mistry makes all accompaniments, pickles, sauces, samosas and ghee in house. This week, look for a Navi Mumbai salad wtih spicy grilled chicken, bitter greens, caramelized parsnips and crispy samosa strips. Mistry says Juhu's "divey" atmosphere in SoMa's Garage Cafe is a perfect fit for her food, all the way down to the dated TV in the dining room blaring classic Bollywood films. Check out Juhu Beach Club on Facebook.