The Seattle area’s stronghold of great Indian restaurants lies not in the city, but to the east, serving the population of residents that emigrated from India to join our tech ecosystem. (King County’s Indian American population is so significant, we even have our own professional cricket team on the way.) In recent years, a few notable destinations have established a critical mass within Seattle proper.
Our range of South Asian restaurants exhibits nearly as much variety as the nation’s wealth of regional cuisines. Options range from balmy coconut and seafood flavors of Kerala to Pakistani food trucks, classic curries—even Indian pizza. Here are our favorites.
Chef Ajay Panicker’s destination-worthy food stays true to the seafood- and vegetable-rich cuisine of South India’s Kerala region rather than balancing the menu with more familiar Indian dishes. This might mean a whole fish with spices wrapped in a banana leaf, or the rice noodles known as idiyappam, or string hoppers. Pay special attention to menu items highlighted with stars, and the entire “Dosas and Kerala Specials” section. The best meals finish with an order of housemade jackfruit ice cream.
Meesha’s newer sibling restaurant is slightly more upscale. But for Indians, the food is nostalgia—with a fresh take. The pan-Indian menu reads like owner Preeti Agarwal dug deep into grandmas’ cookbooks, then got original, making kofta curry with jackfruit and filling tiffin lunchboxes with Bengali lamb curry and house dal to unpack tableside. The Indian national cricket team’s former jersey inspired the dramatic color scheme, and cocktails and wine get the same emphasis as at Meesha.
Buckle up for Pakistani kebabs and the most amazing zinger burger in the Pacific Northwest. The zinger, a spicy fried chicken sandwich, started as an immensely popular menu offering at KFC chains in Pakistan, then took on a life of its own. To find this impressive local version, you’ll have to track down Foody Moody’s nondescript location near some homes across from a McLendon Hardware garden center. This place lacks fanfare, but the menu of paratha rolls, burgers, and pulao rice (all halal) is spot on.
The chaat houses of Northern India specialize in that broad category of savory—often crunchy or deep-fried—street food snacks. This functional counter-service version makes a standout papdi chaat (crispy chips with toppings like chickpeas, yogurt, chutney, and masala) and chole bhature (chickpeas and fried bread). Chaat House’s all-vegetarian menu includes an extensive lineup of Indo-Chinese dishes, including some excellent hakka noodles.
The Roll Pod
Bellevue, White Center, Food Truck
Hands down, the best kathi rolls in the region come from this fast-casual chainlet that includes two stores and a pair of food trucks. Each location layers flaky roti with a fried egg, filling (10 options, meat or vegetarian, mostly curried), plus shredded lettuce, onion, and cilantro-mint chutney. The results nail the kathi roll’s essential blend of flavor, freshness, and texture. Roll Pod’s menu has tons of combos and lets you order items as a bowl, with rice and tomato gravy in place of the roti wrap.
Most U.S. versions of dishes like vada pav and pav bhaji rely on a sweeter, softer bread roll than what you’ll find in India. This chain—based in Ahmedabad in Gujarat—makes its own and gets the texture exactly right. Honest has a large, entirely vegetarian menu that includes the best vada pav around. If you’re really hungry, the Bahubali sandwich—a quadruple decker stuffed with vegetables, curry, and even jam in the middle—is weird, but it works. Order at the counter; the ambience is great for takeout.
At first, it’s easy to miss the Indian aspects on a menu that might include lamb osso buco and watermelon and goat cheese salad. But executive chef Gaurav Raj’s modern dishes blend Indian traditions with great success; the kitchen pulls off memorable plates like chipotle paneer and a fig kofta. This isn’t the place to scratch an itch for curries and dal, but it is memorable fare, served in a dramatic dining room.
This spot in the thick of Broadway will serve you standard naan and masala dishes, but Himalayan specialties are the draw here, especially since so few restaurants serve Nepalese and Tibetan food locally. The Nepalese-style curries are worth exploring, and no meal is complete without the small stuffed dumplings known as momos.
Dishes from Pakistan often get subsumed into larger Indian menus. This lively food truck next to a Lake Hills gas station is one of the few spots that emphasizes Pakistani food, serving meaty street fare like the boti to my roti and beef Bihari paratha rolls or a zalmi chapli burger topped with green chutney. A special Saturday brunch menu rolls out favorites like puris with chickpea curry and sweet halwa or anday cholay (a chickpea and egg curry). The nihari, or mutton stew, has its own fan base and often sells out. Owners Sheraz Malik and Saira Bano are a welcome sight for Pakistan natives, but also happy to explain the food to visitors who aren’t familiar.
True to the Tamilian background of its owners, Samburna does standout dosas—the spotlight-hogging poster child of South Indian food. But venture deeper into Tamilian cuisine here with excellent versions of fish fry, malabar chicken, peppery kozhi curry, chicken 65 and goat curry. Order flaky malabar parotta to sop up the curries. The nenju elumbu saru (goat bone broth) is a standout. Service can be leisurely, so takeout is a great option.
Rajdhani Thali Restaurant
At Rajdhani, there are no menus. This Bombay-based chain, which draws on the Rajasthani and Gujarati tradition of thali restaurants, is essentially an all-you-can-eat buffet that comes to you. Once diners are seated at tables—each one gleaming with massive shiny steel plates, each with 4-5 bowls—servers start showing up to the table to fill it with all manner of curries, chutneys, sweet dishes, flatbreads, even drinks on the side. Refills and more refills follow, until you say stop. The food (all vegetarian) has hits and misses, but the experience is unforgettable. Come very hungry.
Preeti Agarwal’s first restaurant established her formula: Gather dishes from across India’s regions (Rajasthani kofta might sit on the table next to a Goan prawn curry). Serve it in an inviting dining room with cocktails and a good wine program. Diners with restrictions appreciate the separate menus for vegan dishes and non-alcoholic drinks.
Capitol Hill, Ballard
A pair of popular street food shops make sturdy kathi rolls filled with marinated and grilled meats (plus vegetarian options) and snacks like aloo tikki chaat, bhel puri, and masala aloo—aka masala fries with chutney to dip. Spice Waala’s new rotating soft serve, in flavors like pistachio cardamom, is a nice, cool counterpoint to the main meal.
Even after a decade, Ajay Panicker’s original South Indian restaurant remains a standout. Dosas and idlis (savory rice cakes) are favorites on the menu, which is more compact than its sibling restaurant, Kathakali. Other good bets include the fish fry, flaky, multilayered malabar parotta flatbread to eat with curry, and the Amaravati chicken—a spin on chicken 65 with a few extra fireworks. The badam halwa dessert is an expert spin on the comforting pudding of stewed almonds.
As the name implies, this pair of family-owned spots are the place to go for naan and curry. Not to mention flavorful kebabs, tikkas, and the best dum biryani on the West Coast. The Pakistani roots of the owners come through in hard-to-find traditional dishes like haleem, nihari, and paya (a trotter curry, sometimes available at the Renton outpost). This place is not for the faint-hearted—the curries are extremely rich—and it’s currently only open for takeout.
Indian food has a split personality—what you eat in Indian restaurants is miles away from the dishes you’re likely to find in an Indian home. The food at Nirmal’s comes closest to bridging that gap. Delve into misal pav, saoji chicken rassa, nizami goat curry and more, in a historic building in Pioneer Square with tons of brick-walled charm.
Can Am Pizza
Redmond, Bothell, Kent, Federal Way
A well-known secret among the Indian population in Seattle, Can Am’s mainstay is their Indian pizzas (parked under the puzzlingly named ‘East Indian’ section of the menu). Ignore the rest of the Domino’s-like pies and pick between the butter chicken, tandoori chicken, and karahi chicken (or get all three). It’s a creamy, spicy, curry-tastic spin on the classic mozzarella and tomato sauce landscape, not to mention a good pizza crust. It works. And it’s great for takeout. Pies come in vegetarian versions too, with paneer subbed for chicken.
For purists, the South Indian and Sri Lankan menu in this tiny peacock-colored dining room invites skepticism. Bhel puri with snap peas and yogurt? Naan (itself a North Indian bread) offered as a starter rather than with a dish? But chef Liz Kenyon makes it work, from an admirable version of Sri Lanka’s beloved mutton roll to well-spiced Kerala fried chicken. Even that bhel puri, rife with cherries and crunchy hazelnuts, will win over doubters and enthrall people who are new to the cuisine.