Trying to identify a signature dish in Indian food is like playing the world's largest game of indecision. With over 25 different regions in the country, there is a huge variety of food and drink to try, each distinctive and delicious. Luckily, many Bay Area restaurants have caught on to the country's diverse offerings and learned to showcase the cuisine in unique ways based on regional differences and even alcohol pairings.
Here are the best spots to get your fill of Indian food the way it should be eaten—with culture and flavor.
This Western Addition hot spot features classic North Indian food with ample options for both vegetarians and carnivores. We recommend the saag paneer with spinach, or the Kashmiri gosht lamb curry, and if you ask for it spicy, watch out—you'll get it. Order a side of yogurt (just in case) to tame the fire. // 1279 Fulton St. (Western Addition), saffrongrillsf.com
(Courtesy of Vik's Chaat House)
Vik's Chaat House
Vik's has been serving traditional Indian street food for years in a casual warehouse setting. Your best bet is to order a bunch of dishes and share. From the refreshing dahi papdi chaat to the spicy pani puri to the steaming balloon of cholle bhatura, you can't go wrong at this Indian feast. // 2390 4th St. (Berkeley), vikschaat.com
This no frills Mission spot is the local expert on authentic South Indian food. Lentil vada, steamed idli, and the signature masala dosa are all satisfying and perfectly made. Don't forget the Madras coffee, made with chicory, for a light and flavorful after-meal drink. // 1007 Valencia St. (Mission), udupipalace.org
(@shikhalamode, via Instagram)
For street food in a more refined setting, visit the Lower Haight's Indian Paradox. Owner Kavitha Raghavan is a trained sommelier and pairs expertly everything on the menu with killer red or white wines. Think Indian potato burgers with a bold Spanish red blend or a warm garbanzo salad with Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux. She's there most nights and happy to chat, making for a delicious and educational experience. // 258 Divisadero St. (Lower Haight), indianparadoxsf.com
Kasa Indian Eatery
Come for the roti kati rolls and stay for the naan kati rolls, and then the super kati rolls. Indian wraps are the signature items at Kasa, made-to-order with either roti bread, flaky naan, or a tortilla and the filling of your choice. Favorite options include the chicken tikka masala or the karahi paneer for vegetarians. Oh, and their Famous Kasa Chai is the perfect pick-me-up at the end of a long day. // Multiple locations, kasaindian.com
This Marina spot specializes in cuisine from Goa, a coastal state known for its seafood and Portugeuse influences. Get the prawn xacutti, made with coconut and red chilies, or any of the vindaloo dishes (we especially like the lamb) for a guaranteed spice explosion. // 2420 Lombard St. (Marina), vivagoaindiancuisine.com