9 Essential Indian Restaurants to Celebrate Diwali in LA
From Michelin-rated regional specialties to innovative newcomers, there are plenty of spots to get your Indian food fix across the Southern California region.
As the world’s third-largest religion, there are endless Hindu festivals and celebrations to enjoy throughout the year. Known as the Festival of Lights, there are few occasions as big as Diwali, which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. This year, Diwali is observed on Monday, October 24, though festivities often occur over five or six days. During this time, participants don vibrant traditional clothing, adorn their homes in stunning light displays, exchange gifts, and prepare decadent sweet treats to commemorate the day when King Rama returned with Queen Sita to his home after spending 14 years in the forest.
Diwali is celebrated across India, many parts of Southeast Asia, and right here in Southern California as well. Home to a significant South Asian community, here are some of the best Indian restaurants in SoCal to visit during Diwali to get a firsthand taste of the flavors and festivities. Be sure to check out each venue’s dessert menu as mithai, or sweets, are the mainstay of the festival. From traditional Indian fare to unique new takes on the cuisine, spanning Artesia’s Little India to Santa Monica and beyond, here are the best spots to celebrate Diwali this year.
A notable newcomer in the LA restaurant scene, Pijja Palace is an aesthetically-driven sports bar that delivers satisfying bar food and cocktails translated through Indian spices and flavors. With a calming coastal color palette, you won’t even mind as raucous LA sports fans cheer on their favorite teams playing on multiple TVs. What you will want to do is go with a group so you don’t miss out on an entire menu full of standouts, not limited to Dosa Onion Rings and Okra Fries; wings which can optionally be subbed for fried cauliflower or chicken tenders and are drenched in vibrant yellow, green, and red sauces; and Lamb Kebab and Aloo Tiki sliders. There are also innovative pasta dishes with aromatic Indian spices, like the Malai Rigatoni and Tandoori Spaghetti, plus Green Chutney and Saag pijjas, which put an Indian spin on Italy’s greatest export. Don’t forget to save room for soft serve desserts in Cookies and Cardamon and Malted Chai flavors, and don’t disregard the cocktail list, which generously features Indian spirits and flavors, plus Indian beers and natural wines.
Curated by Michelin-starred chef Mural Manjunath, this quiet and unassuming restaurant will blow away the toughest critic. Dubbed as an ‘unauthentic Indian’ restaurant, Cali Chilli honors the essence of Indian cuisine by allowing flavors to emerge not through a set pattern of recipes, but by exciting the taste buds to appreciate nuances of aroma, texture, and mouthfeel. The menu explores how one achieves the perfect marriage of culinary influences—particularly evident in dishes like the Cali Chilli Rendang, Eggplant Bharta Lasagna, and Qulfi for a classic dessert with a modern twist. They’ve also got a worthwhile weekend brunch, with intriguing options like Ghee Waffles served with coconut chutney and a Bacon Naan Wrap.
The Hindi word Badmaash means mischievous, naughty, or in some cases, is an endearing term for cheeky. This family-owned gastropub offers two LA locations for diners to take in all the mischief that comes from creating a menu inspired by their Punjabi Indian and Canadian roots. They’re the originators of Chicken Tikka Poutine, which tops masala fries with cheese curds, hot beef gravy, tandoori chicken tikka, and cilantro, but also offer traditional dishes like Punjabi samosas filled with butter chicken or sweet peas and potatoes, plus Butter Chicken and Good Ol’ Saag Paneer. For dessert, you can’t beat the decadent Chocolate Chai Pot Du Creme featuring rich chocolate mousse spiced with chai seasoning.
How to book: Walk in or choose your location and order takeout/delivery or make a reservation online.
Another restaurant recognized on the Michelin roster, Tumbi Craft Indian Kitchen is only open for dinner, but starts the evening early at 4 pm, making it a great choice for both delicious drinks and a soulfully prepared dinner. The Keema Pav is reminiscent of a spicy sloppy Joe with minced lamb leg over gun-powder-seared pav bread and the Dal Bukhara is fragrant and hearty. Diners will find familiar Indian dishes like Butter Chicken and Channa Bhatura, or veer towards something out of the box like the Fungi Mushroom Dosa. Pair it with the mostly California-sourced wine or beer list—the latter has a couple popular Indian brews. Wrap up your meal with a Nutella Dosa, or a reimagined Carrot Halwa with granola crumbles and vanilla ice cream.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
Khan Saab: Desi Craft Kitchen
Head to Khan Saab to experience three geographically adjacent cuisines coming together in the spirit of brotherhood through shared food traditions. Featuring the foods of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and led by Michelin-starred chef Imran Ali Mookhi, this is a Halal, or alcohol-free, establishment. Try the Goat Cheese Kulcha—a white flour relative of Naan, leavened with baking powder instead of yeast—that’s delicate with just the right amount of goat cheese for a sumptuous starter. While okra fries have their moment elsewhere, try the Bhindi Masala, which features bite-sized fresh okra cooked in a flavorful tomato sauce. To wrap up the meal, choose from one of many reimagined desserts, like Shahi Gulab Jamuns, the Indian version of donut holes, dressed with Nutella and served with chocolate wafers, or Rasmali, Bengali-style steamed fresh cheese dumplings in a cream sauce served with pomegranate arils.
How to book: Make dine-in reservations online or order takeout and delivery through third-party apps.
This long-standing and unfussy outpost for Indian comfort food sells entree portions by the weight and makes for an ideal takeout meal, with locations across LA. Start with the titular samosas, or choose from a selection of chaat and dosa options, before moving onto mains like Chana Masala, Daal, and Aloo Curry. There’s no dedicated dessert menu, but the Mango Lassi is a perfectly balanced and suitable alternative.
How to book: Walk in or choose your location to order takeout and delivery online.
This fast-casual chain boasts a wide selection of vegetarian regional fare, including Undhiyo, a fall speciality with baby eggplants, beans, and root vegetables cooked with coconut, and Lilva Kachori, potato and coconut croquettes stuffed with mashed green beans, as well as popular Indo-Chinese fusion dishes like Hakka noodles and Vegetarian Manchurian. For dessert, explore classic Indian desserts like Shrikhand, made with hung yogurt and dressed with cardamom and nuts.
How to book: Walk in or choose your location and order takeout and delivery online.
BAPS Shayona Cafe
Attached to the BAPS Temple in Chino Hills, this unassuming eatery offers classic vegetarian foods from Gujarat. These foods strictly adhere to religious guidelines of those who follow the Swaminarayan sect, and the fare offers an exploration of how flavorful meals can come together within these guidelines. Menu selection varies by season, with a convenient cafeteria-style counter to easily grab your food to-go, or enjoy your selections on the outdoor patio. Pick up a few boxes of their house-made desserts from the adjoining Sweet and Snack Store for traditional Indian Diwali mithai. While the snack store is open daily, the cafe is only open on the weekends.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
Indian ice cream flavors are often fruit and nut-based, with preparations that offer a sweet and light alternative to traditional fudge-like mithai. Saffron Spot has been an Artesia mainstay for Indian-flavored ice creams for nearly two decades. While they do offer a small selection of savory eats, their main focus is ice-creams, shaved ice, and falooda—a classic ice cream float with noodles, sweet basil seeds, and of course, ice cream. During the festive season, their best seller is the Rajbhog ice cream with saffron ice cream, mixed nuts, and cardamom that bridges the flavors between mithai and traditional Indian ice cream.
How to book: Walk-ins only.