Where to Eat the Best Indian Food in and Around DC
From fine dining options to fast-casual restaurants.
With the number of Indian restaurants in DC growing by the year, the subcontinent’s culinary diversity has plenty of space to shine. Menus around town feature gobi manchurian, an Indo-Chinese dish originating in Kolkata; savory South Indian pancake uttapam; and a dizzying array of chaats, a mixture of starches, yogurt, tamarind, and crunchy toppings that you’d find among Mumbai street vendors. We’ve rounded up some of the DC area’s best Indian restaurants, from fine dining spots with captivating interiors to fast-casual restaurants.
Daru’s inventive street snacks, entrees, and cocktails have captivated DC diners since its long-awaited August opening. Where else can you order jackfruit tacos, paneer pesto tikka, and black daal paired with burrata? Originally conceived primarily as a bar before the pandemic prompted the owners to expand the food menu, the restaurant boasts two Columbia Room veterans (co-owner Dante Datta and bar manager Tom Martinez), so don’t leave without pairing dishes with the cardamom- and amaro-laced Kali Kooler or a spin on the classic gin and tonic with coconut and lime leaf.
Karma Modern Indian
This lauded restaurant draws diners with its sumptuous interior and artfully arranged dishes. The varied menu includes some of the usual suspects like chicken tikka as well as seafood standouts like lobster masala and tandoor octopus. The team behind the restaurant recently opened a casual sister restaurant, Kismet Modern Indian, just blocks from the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria.
From the opulent interiors meticulously hand-crafted in India and transported to the District to the unconventional takes on classic dishes, Punjab Grill has elevated DC’s fine dining scene since making its debut two years ago. Enjoy the palak paneer infused with olive tapenade, lentil with spiced goat cheese and beetroot, or leg of lamb topped with a gold leaf. Pair the dishes with a cocktail like the Punjab mule, with vodka, lemon, ginger, and curry leaves.
The 18-year-old Cleveland Park stalwart has a menu that features small plates, street food, an assortment of chaat, and more—all that exhibit a modern approach to classic dishes. The dining room is adorned with bright colors and rich fabrics, so you’ll have a great experience whether you dine in or decide to take out.
Rasika West End
The crown jewel of Ashok Bajaj’s Knightsbridge Restaurant Group empire, Rasika’s signature palak chaat, bhindi amchoor, and other dishes broadened the DC diner’s palate beyond butter chicken when the original Penn Quarter location debuted 15 years ago. Soon followed by the more contemporary West End spot, Rasika has become one of the city’s most beloved restaurants, attracting celebrities and heavyweights from both political parties. This year, the Knightsbridge Group’s Rasika and Bombay Club will offer two desserts complimentary to guests in celebration of Diwali: kala jamun dipped in cardamom flavored sugar syrup, and motichoor ladoo, fried soft balls made with gram flour.
The Bombay Club
Rasika’s equally venerable sister restaurant Bombay Club, which pays homage to India’s social clubs, became DC’s first Indian fine dining restaurant when it debuted more than 30 years ago and has remained a favorite among the power-lunch crowd. Earlier this year, it debuted a renovation with new original art and a more contemporary design and color scheme.
Known for its made-to-order Indian bowls that can be filled with rice, chicken tikka, turmeric shrimp, and a dazzling array of toppings, RASA debuted its third location in Arlington, Virginia earlier this year. Don’t skip the masala chai cookies, mango lassi soft serve, or the tamarind margarita. Even better, you can feel good about spending your dollars here as second-generation restaurant owners Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman (whose fathers own Indique) provided free meals to school kids, restaurant, and hospital workers throughout the pandemic.
It’s worth the trek to Howard County to dine at Ananda, where the interior is as eye-catching as the beautifully plated dishes that use the chicken and vegetables sourced from the restaurant’s own farm a mile away. Take advantage of the expansive covered veranda while enjoying the shrimp with seasonal polenta or the butternut squash and carrot soup topped with spiced pear chutney.
The license plates in the parking lot indicate that plenty of DC-area folks make the drive for this restaurant’s consistently superlative service and food, which includes an extensive selection of lamb and seafood dishes. Make a reservation to sit in the spacious white and gold-outfitted dining room or on the patio.
How to book: Call 410-381-1111 to make a reservation
While a handful of DC-area South Asian restaurants serve an Indo-Chinese dish or two, IndoChen unabashedly dedicates a good chunk of the cuisine that sprouted in India with the arrival of Chinese immigrants in the 1700s. Dishes like chop suey blend wok-fried noodles with soy sauce, garlic ginger paste, cumin, coriander, and chilis. Chef Ram Thapa fine-tuned his dishes while working in Indo-Chinese restaurants in South Asia, and Washingtonians will rejoice now that he’s landed in the area.
Bollywood Bistro - Great Falls
This restaurant’s two locations in Northern Virginia deliver an assortment of strong appetizers, including Indo-Chinese favorite gobi manchurian, several chaats, and standout naan stuffed with dates and almonds, tomatoes, and cheese or dried fruit, coconut, and cherries. Black-and-white photos of legendary actors in the Great Falls location pay homage to India’s film industry while the Fairfax spot offers outdoor seating.
How to book: Call 703-273-0031 to make reservations in Fairfax and 703-865-0450 to reserve at Great Falls.