After New York City, the Bay Area boasts the second largest population of Indian Americans in the United States — not that these numbers get close to covering everyone in the South Asian diaspora throughout the Bay Area. The Indian food in this region is just one piece of the mosaic, though. Sana Javeri Kadri grew up in Mumbai and operates a spice company out of Oakland called Diaspora Co, bringing in millions of dollars in her quest to decolonize what it means to cook with South Asian spices such as turmeric and black pepper. There’s also a wide range of Indian restaurants in the South Bay, from Palo Alto to Santa Clara, as well as Indian food trucks in the South and East Bay. For San Franciscans, or those making a trip to the home city of Indian pizza, here are 14 intensely flavorful Indian restaurants to try.Read More
14 Fantastically Flavorful Indian Restaurants in San Francisco
Where to find curries, naan, regional revelations, and jewel-toned cocktails
Curryleaf is the neighborhood favorite of Russian Hill. It’s an Indian and Pakistani restaurant firing a big tandoori grill and serving halal meats. That means beef, lamb, and chicken kebabs, as well as lamb chops and chicken legs. But the chef’s favorite is the bengan bharta, or mashed eggplant, which is simmered down in a garlicky tomato sauce.
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Viva Goa Indian Cuisine
Viva Goa is the Marina's go-to Indian takeout spot, serving the neighborhood all the curries, tandoori, and naan it could desire. The restaurant specializes in Goan cuisine, which features plenty of seafood, coconut, and kokum, and is heavily influenced by Portugal, which ruled the area for 450 years. The region's most popular dish is vindaloo (spicy red curry), and that's the order, alongside prawn curry.
Amber India Restaurant
San Francisco isn’t really known for its wealth of buffet options, but Amber happens to offer both a daily lunch buffet and a weekend “endless brunch buffet,” putting it in a category all its own. At night, the restaurant serves an a la carte menu starring items such as Nawabi chicken or Awadhi lamb korma. There’s also a bar menu available in the afternoons into the evening, if you’re looking for smaller bites with a cocktail.
Pakwan Indian Restaurant
Pakwan is usually an excellent no-frills destination for anyone seeking a night out in the Tenderloin, and it’s just as satisfying delivered to the comfort of your couch. The generous portions leave ample room for leftover biryani lunches.
Copra is the latest restaurant from star chef Srijith Gopinathan, and the expansive new space in the Fillmore shows off cuisine from his home state of Kerala. The restaurant itself is a feast for the eyes with a lush design that features climbing vines and beautiful hanging macrame ropes. The food is just as good as the decor, with bites like kola urundai — here, it’s a vegetarian version of the fried meatball — and main courses like the Cornish hen cooked in a black curry rub. Order the shareable chutney palette and don’t skimp on the drinks, which fold in ingredients like coconut and tamarind.
Keeva Indian Restaurant
Husband-and-wife team Ajeet and Rita Mehta opened this neighborhood gem on Clement Street and offer American favorites like butter chicken and saag paneer — though insiders love the goat dishes, stir-fried okra, and bang bang egg curry, with a crispy boiled-then-fried egg sunk into a tomato and onion sauce.
Rooh serves modern Indian cuisine in a polished setting, an environment one might expect from India’s Good Times Restaurants hospitality group. This location in SoMa was the company's first outpost in the U.S., and they have a second location in Palo Alto as well. Prepare for dazzling dishes, from buttery and golden saffron brioche to ultra-glossy short ribs enriched with bone marrow.
Spice of America
This quiet spot on Market was dubbed the “most interesting Indian restaurant in San Francisco” and serves a broad menu of Indian fare with a few Nepali specialties mixed in. Explore non-traditional entrees including grilled shrimp in Indo-Chinese Schezwan sauce and Northwest salmon cooked in a coconut and green mango curry.
Aaha Indian Cuisine
Southern Indian dishes are the attraction at Aaha Indian Cuisine, which debuted in the Mission in 2022. There’s a healthy dosa section, with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, and the menu also boasts a Madurai chile fish and chile shrimp made with the chef’s own chile sauce. The restaurant also received a nod from the Infatuation as a best new restaurant in San Francisco for 2022.
Golden Gate Indian Cuisine & Pizza
Traveling to the end of the city to order an extra large tikka masala chicken pizza is an experience well worth the expense. The Bay Area claims to be the source of Indian pizza, and in an age of fusion (however that word lands for you) it’s pleasant to find a dish that rings of novelty while also tasting, you know, good. Bonus: Feel free to pick up a biryani, salad, or even pasta while you’re at this Judah Street staple.
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This South Indian vegetarian institution in the Mission hits all the right spots. There are giant masala dosas, spicy curries, and sweet chutneys a plenty, all sans meat. The best part: They’ll fill you up without breaking the bank.
Heena Patel, a graduate of San Francisco’s food incubator La Cocina, channels flavors from her native Gujarat at this cheeky restaurant in the Dogpatch. Her regional, vegetarian, and deeply personal dishes won her the Eater Award for Restaurant of the Year in 2019. Since reopening in summer 2021, Patel has dropped meat from the menu, which takes diners through four cities in western India.
A Desi Cafe
Sort of out of nowhere, a bright, enormous sign with a font straight out of P.T. Barnum’s circus hangs over the sidewalk. Inside is the cilantro-centric, most flavorful aloo chaat on the west side of San Francisco. A takeout box of spicy potatoes and vegetables, slathered in a slurry of sauces, is well worth the $7. Curries, dals, and biryanis are all on the menu here, too, with nothing more expensive than $17.
Tilak Gurung managed to reverse the usual trajectory for Bay Area chefs. After cooking for big tech cafeterias like Apple and Dropbox (where he says he served Justin Timberlake and the prime minister of Singapore, in that order), he opened his own restaurant at the top of Mission. He’s serving satisfying curries and tandoori to Bernal Heights, but also dahi puri chaat, those crispy street snacks, fully loaded with yogurt, tamarind, mint, and sprouts.