Food

The Best New Indian Restaurants Where You Can Eat for Under $25

Crab malabar with lemon rice at Amber Spice.
Eat Great Cheap 2019

About Eat Great Cheap 2019

This article is a part of Washingtonian’s Eat Great Cheap feature, our annual list of where to eat (and not break the bank) right now. Our food editors put together the best new restaurants around DC where you can find Detroit-style pizza, Japanese egg-salad sandwiches, chicken-nugget-filled tacos, and more—for $25 or less per person.

Agni

46005 Regal Plaza, Sterling

Lady Gaga is blasting, and cutesy inspirational phrases hang on the wall at this strip-mall spot. Odd match for its Southern Indian cooking—known for fiery flavors and a love of sharp-elbowed ingredients such as tamarind and mustard seeds—but no matter. There was a chili-fueled kick to every curry we tasted, from a cilantro-heavy stew of chicken to a creamy, cashew-based bowl of vegetables. You don’t want to miss the pepper fries—whether cauliflower or goat. Temper the heat with a dosaserved with cool coconut chutney.

Amber Spice

13524 Baltimore Ave., Laurel

The daytime buffet at this gray-toned dining room—lined with chicken tikka masala, palak paneer, and the other usuals—has legions of fans. We’re here for a taste of chef Saravan Krishnan’s home region of Southern India. Greaseless dosas stuffed with spiced potatoes; roasted lamb or goat sukka; a lemon rice that pops with chilies and mustard seeds; and kotthu paratha, a mess of chopped flatbread, egg, and onions. His most famous dish is his tomatoey egg curry, lush and searing at once and sided with warm, flaky paratha. Don’t skip the desserts—they’re little and lovely and made in-house.

Bombay Street Food

1413 Park Rd., NW

Restaurateur Asad Sheikh ran Indian restaurants in the Virginia suburbs (London Curry House, 1947, and Curry Mantra) before selling them and opening this ode to the street foods of his childhood. Enjoy vicarious nostalgia with the vada pav, a “Bombay burger” with a potato patty and a savory-sweet combo of chutneys, as well as Indo-Chinese fried cauliflower in a tangy glaze. For a wider sampling, the thali for two offers six curries, along with tandoori chicken, raita, mango chutney, salty mango pickles, naan, and gulab jamun.

Curry N Tandoori

6347 Columbia Pike, Falls Church

If you take the restaurant’s name as a directive for what to order, you’ll find plenty of satisfying Indian staples at this dining room. But there’s more to the menu. Owner Raj Khadka hails from Nepal and offers a selection of specialties from his home country. Nepalese-style chow mein packs more spice and flavor than its American-Chinese counterpart, while a goat curry seethes with heat if you ask for it “Nepalese hot.” Don’t miss the thinly wrapped chicken jhol momo in a creamy nut gravy.

London Curry House

4906 Brenman Park Dr., Alexandria

The talented owner of Royal Nepal took over this opulent Cameron Station dining room earlier this year. Curries still have a deep richness and complexity—we especially love the Madras lamb, earthy with black pepper and lush with coconut milk, and the bone-in goat curry. But new to the menu are momo dumplings, a Himalayan specialty stuffed with ground bison, and a toss of fried kale with lotus, yogurt, and mint. Bruléed rice pudding will make you wonder why other chefs don’t torch this familiar sweet more often.

Mango shrimp and butter chicken at London Curry House.

Masala Story

3301 12th St., NE

This vibrant Brookland cafe with a covered patio turns out Indian curries and street snacks with fire and finesse. Fried things—Amritsari fish, extra-spicy Punjabi-style fritters, crisp spinach rolls sheathed in chickpea powder—are must-orders, as are herb-flecked curries of lamb, goat, and chicken. If meat isn’t on your menu, go for kadi pakora, vegetable dumplings adrift in a yogurt sauce, or the eggplant stew called baingan bhartha. Drinks run from cocktails to local beers to a lovely masala chai that doubles as dessert.

Rasa

1247 First St., SE

Childhood buddies Sahil Rahman and Rahul Vinod grew up in local Indian restaurants—their fathers own Indique and Bombay Bistro. The younger generation’s interpretation of hospitality is fitting for the times: a bright fast-casual restaurant where you can swing in a basket chair while sipping a masala-spiced gin and tonic and diving into cheekily named bowls. Our favorites include the vegetarian Aloo Need Is Love (lemon rice, coconut-ginger sauce, charred eggplant, pickled veggies) and the Home Cooking, with vermicelli, gingery shrimp, and mango-coconut yogurt.

This article appears in the August 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.