When Junoon burst onto Manhattan's fine-dining scene in late 2010, it garnered almost as many accolades for its lavish décor as for its Michelin-starred menu and 250-label wine list.
Indian restaurants have come a long way from the mid-1960s, when the first significant wave of immigrants arrived. The cuisine of the subcontinent languished -- often considered foreign and (unpleasantly) fragrant. Chefs remained discreetly behind the tandoors, a far cry from the sexy star-chef reputation of Junoon's Vikas Khanna.
While still not quite as assimilated as Italian and Mexican, "Indian food is one of the fastest growing segments in the culinary scene and is gaining popularity within the American mainstream," says Varli Singh. In 2011, she founded the Varli Food Festival to showcase Indian cuisine, chefs, and restaurateurs.
Here is our sure-to-be-disputed list of the best Indian restaurants in America, from a power-lunch favorite in D.C. to a farm-to-table pioneer in Minneapolis.
-- Sarah Khan
See More of the Best Indian Restaurants in the U.S.Everything is bigger in Texas. And that applies to the Indian community, which has a huge presence in Houston in particular. While larger numbers means increased competition, Indika’s innovative fusion menu has it sitting comfortably atop numerous “best of” lists citywide. In a state that loves its jalapeños, chef Anita Jaisinghani’s authentically fiery red-hot chili pepper shrimp and pork chop vindaloo (sensitive palates: beware) have found an enraptured audience. indikausa.com Photo: Courtesy of Indika
See More of the Best Indian Restaurants in the U.S.For Chicago’s Indian community, all roads lead to Devon Avenue, with its scores of South Asian groceries and boutiques. Vegetarian Mysore Woodlands holds its own amid numerous meat-centric neighbors like the Pakistani institution Sabri Nihari. Order the Mysore Royal Thali—a seemingly bottomless platter decked with soup, mixed-vegetable cutlets, samosas, three different curries, and much, much more—to discover why. mysorewoodlands.com Photo: Courtesy of Mysore Woodlands
See More of the Best Indian Restaurants in the U.S.Visitors to D.C. soliciting dining recommendations are almost always steered to Rasika: it’s among the best, Indian or otherwise, and owner Ashok Bajaj was fêted in The New York Times as “arguably the most successful restaurateur in Washington.” The Penn Quarter flagship proved so popular that a West End outpost opened in 2012—to the same rave reviews. Expect nouveau Indian dishes like lobster pulao and an apple jalebi beignet with cardamom ice cream, paired with creative cocktails. rasikarestaurant.com Photo: Michael J. Colella
See More of the Best Indian Restaurants in the U.S.A dhaba is a roadside stall frequented by truckers in India, and this no-frills café is hardly a few notches above its namesake. Yet Punjabi Dhaba has long maintained a cult following among a decidedly non-trucker crowd in Cambridge—everyone from college students to hipsters to multigenerational Indian families. They throng to the counters for generous portions of chicken tikka masala and shahi paneer, sopped up with greasy aloo parathas. royalbharatinc.com Photo: Anil Wadghule
See More of the Best Indian Restaurants in the U.S.It’s not often that an Indian restaurant can be described as sexy, but that’s the vibe that Junoon gives off. Credit goes to the amber lighting, sumptuously upholstered banquettes, latticed sandalwood screens, and pools with lotus blossoms lazily adrift. In an open kitchen, chefs do their part, presenting elegant, updated versions of traditional dishes like Hyderabadi chicken korma and goat cheese and mango cheesecake. It’s a recipe for a well-deserved Michelin star. junoonnyc.com Photo: Courtesy of Junoon
See More of the Best Indian Restaurants in the U.S.The expansive rice-and-lentil crêpes served with coconut and tamarind chutney and often heaped with spiced potatoes known as dosas are a staple of South Indian cuisine. At this authentic vegetarian mainstay with locations in San Francisco and Berkeley, patrons dig into a two-foot version that is nothing short of epic. Make room for side dishes like idlis (steamed-rice cakes), sambar, and uttapam (lentil-and-rice pancakes). udupipalace.org Photo: noppechan
See More of the Best Indian Restaurants in the U.S.When chef Raju Bhattarai defected from Philly institution Tiffin to open Ekta, the resulting feud brought some seriously bad blood to the culinary scene in the so-called City of Brotherly Love. To add namak (salt) to the wound, the new kid on the block swiftly went on to surpass the original with its bold flavors, the secret to which may well lie in Bhattarai’s house-made garam masala spice blend. His lamb vindaloo is guaranteed to singe your tongue; find relief in a tall glass of ice-cold mango lassi. ektaindianrestaurant.com Photo: Courtesy of Ekta
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