Indian food in Asheville is rather plentiful, given the fact that this isn’t that large of a community. While the tourism in Western NC does swell the dining public a bit, we’re really spoiled for choice around here, and some of the best restaurants in Asheville serve up incredible Indian cuisine. Some of the best Indian restaurants in Asheville are truly making waves, winning major food awards, and gaining praise nationally, not just here in town.
What’s great is that you don’t have to eat Indian food just one way: there are simple restaurants with great lunch buffets that allow you to sample different curries and sauces as you get to know the available flavors, and there are fancy spots with white tablecloths or fusion dishes you probably haven’t encountered on other menus.
Let’s take a look at the best Indian restaurants in Asheville, whether you’re a curious Indian food newbie or always looking for the next bite of tikka masala!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 8 Best Indian Restaurants in Asheville, NC
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How to Identify Indian Food That You Might Like
While, of course, every restaurant in Asheville has the specialties of the house, there are a few words that, by knowing them, will help you find the flavors you favor at an Indian restaurant.
One feature you’ll see in Asheville’s Indian restaurants and also at Indian restaurants beyond North Carolina is the idea of the lunch buffet. Many buffets will feature rice and naan bread as your base, to which you can add one of the various curries or vegetables and meat cooked in a spiced sauces of various kinds.
You can mix curries if you like or try small portions of each to find a favorite. Indian buffets often also include a variety of sauces and chutneys, pakoras (fritters), and even desserts.
At many Indian restaurants in Asheville, you can ask about spicing levels if you worry that you cannot handle the level of chilies and other heat-driving spices. Some places will simply label spicy and mild dishes, but others will ask you a scale of, say, 0-6, so they know about how much spice you’re up for.
If you’re new to this food, you might start at a 1 or 2 if you typically aren’t much for hot peppers, and maybe venture a 3 if you are already a fan of spice. You can always go spicier for your next curry!
Here are some of the terms to know:
- Aloo: A dish made with spiced potatoes.
- Biryani: A dish that layers spices, protein, and fragrant basmati rice.
- Dal: Lentils, specifically made in a stew with spices.
- Ghee: Clarified butter used in many sauces.
- Gobi: A dish made with cauliflower.
- Kofta: Some kind of ground meat formed into a meatball.
- Korma: A curry sauce using yogurt, cream, spices, and often raisins and nuts. Served with meat or veggies.
- Lassi: A yogurt-based drink.
- Masala: A spicing profile.
- Mutter or Matar: Green peas in a dish.
- Naan: Soft flatbread, often served with butter, garlic, or Kashmiri style, with sweet nuts and raisins.
- Pakora: A crispy fritter filled with veggies or meat and deep-fried in a chickpea batter.
- Paneer: Fresh Indian cheese, often in firm cubes and simmered in a spiced sauce.
- Papadam: A thin crisp cracker-like bread made from lentil or chickpea flour.
- Raita: A yogurt sauce with spices like cumin.
- Roti or Chapati: Another kind of Indian flatbread.
- Saag: Usually spinach in a spiced sauce.
- Samosa: A fried dumpling filled with meat, spices, or veggies.
- Tandoori: A method of preparing a dish in a clay oven, often over charcoal or a wood fire.
- Vindaloo: A curry dish known for its hot and vinegar-based flavoring.
Casual and Takeout Indian Restaurants in Asheville
Don’t be fooled by plentiful takeout boxes or simple decor – casual dining at Asheville’s restaurants is a feast, no matter whether the space is decorated or sparse. These restaurants are on the more casual end of our available Indian food restaurants in Asheville, but don’t be fooled – the flavors are the stars of the show!
1. India Garden
India Garden is one of my go-to spots for an excellent curry. They offer a spice-level series that starts with mild, then progresses to medium, medium hot, hot, and Indian hot. Even a mild dish may be highly spiced, just not with high-heat spices, so be prepared for lots of flavor, no matter which level you choose.
They offer a wide variety of meals, from vegetarian dishes like Mushroom Broccoli Karahi to Chicken Hara Bhara, a creamy spinach and ginger dish. There is a lamb peppercorn dish that is an explosion of flavor, and the Lobster Dum Korma is a rich meal of lobster in a cashew, saffron, and caramelized onion sauce.
A good way to try a lot of things is with combination dinners or lunch platters, which include a few small servings of different Indian dishes, and their dessert menu features a variety of flavors, including Kulfi, an Indian ice cream with pistachios, almonds, and rose water, and Gulab Jamun, light cheese pieces dipped in sweet cinnamon syrup. It’s a feast from start to finish!
2. Biryani Express
Biryani Express offers both Indian and Pakistani dishes, and many of the spicing influences are similar across the many cultures of these two countries. Sample Beef Nehari, a rich beef stew, or Lahori Anda Chana Masala, a chickpea-based curry, or dig into a Mutton Karahi with a fragrant tomato sauce over the mutton.
I’m personally a fan of Palak Paneer, a creamy spinach dish that feels like a decadent spread to put on a big fluffy piece of garlicky naan bread. From the grill, you can get chicken tandoori, and there are lamb or beef shawarma and rolls made with naan bread.
The dessert menu is also full of treats, including Ras Malai, a rice pudding, and Gajar Ka Halwa, a pudding made with carrots, sugar, milk, and nuts.
3. Cinnamon Kitchen
While I’ve had great takeout from various Indian restaurants in Asheville, my consistent favorite has been food from Cinnamon Kitchen, though their dine-in is lovely too. Sample a variety of tasty and crispy appetizers with the Veggie Assorted Platter, including a vegetable samosa, a vegetable pakora, and a potato patty.
Tasty soups and salads are also available, and the menu is then divided into tandoori specialties, like the Chipotle Tandoori Salmon or Tandori Lamb Chop. They also feature biryanis, like chicken marinated with saffron and spices and cooked with basmati rice, all complemented by raita sauce. Their Goat Saag, a goat dish mixed with creamed spinach, is also delicious and an interesting way to try a less common protein in the US.
They have some common and some unusual vegetarian dishes, too, including Eggplant Bharta, where the eggplant is baked in the clay oven and mashed and sautéed with spices and other vegetables. There are simply so many options to try that you can have something different every week for a long time!
Sit-Down Indian Restaurants in Asheville
Some of the more sit-down restaurants in Asheville also offer takeout, so this distinction among the many Asheville restaurants is a bit fluid, but for the most part, these are restaurants that will tend to have reservations or be popular with a dinner crowd. Check out some of the best restaurants for dining on Indian food in Asheville!
4. Mela Indian Restaurant
Mela Indian Restaurant brings dishes from both Northern and Southern India together on one menu, celebrating a diversity of spices and flavors that come together in this kitchen known for making so much from scratch.
Mela is committed to high-quality proteins, including hormone-free chicken and lamb, as well as wild Atlantic salmon. They feature a tasty variety of dishes on their lunch buffet, and dinner service features classics, including Mela Chicken Curry, a dish featuring onion, ginger, cilantro, and okra, or Aloo Gobi Masala, a spicy cauliflower and potato dish in ginger, garlic, and turmeric sauce.
Mela’s location in bustling downtown is really one of the prettiest storefront restaurant locations available. You’ll love the people-watching while you sample multiple options off the lunch buffet or sink into a flavorful dinner curry dish.
Mehfil means a place that brings people together, and Mehfil in downtown Asheville aspires to be just that – a wonderful gathering place for good conversation and amazing food. Like other Indian restaurants in Asheville and beyond, their atmosphere is more casual at lunch, when a buffet is available, but they also have their a la carte menu available during lunch, and then dinner is all a la carte.
You’ll love the bright colors of the spices and vegetables featured in a variety of dishes. The plating at Mehfil is elegant and clean, focused on making the food itself take center stage.
Try Mango Shrimp Tandoori, shrimp cooked in a traditional oven covered in mango yogurt and served with mint chutney. Then sink your teeth into Lamb Seekh Kabob, a minced lamb dish also cooked in the tandoor, or the Bombay Fish Curry, with grouper/salmon spiced and balanced with coconut and curry leaves.
For vegetarians, a variety of meat-free curries are available, including Malai Kofta, where vegetable dumplings are served in a creamy tomato curry sauce. Other great options are the biryani dishes, serving each protein option with basmati rice flavored with cardamom, mint, saffron, and rose water for a true feast of aromas.
While you will find many familiar tastes at Andaaz Indian Cuisine, you’ll also find that they take their own view on how to infuse Indian cooking techniques into a variety of kinds of dishes. Take their various soups and salads, from a Curried Butternut Squash Soup to a Crispy Okra Salad with mango powder to a Spiced Corn Soup, perfect for a cold or gray day in the mountains in the winter.
In addition to familiar samosas and Gobi Manchurian, Andaaz features Masala Crab Cakes with a tomato chutney and much more on their appetizers list. If you’re wanting to try a few different kinds of clay-oven-barbecued chicken, try the trio kabab that includes Chicken Malai Kabab, Mirc Murg Tikka, and Chicken Achari Tikka, showcasing multiple spicing profiles, making it perfect for sharing and sampling with a friend.
Indian Street Food Restaurants in Asheville – Embrace the Chaat
Chaat is a category of Indian street foods that have become popular in their own right, and Asheville has not one but two restaurants that specialize in this tasty category. From crispy Pani Puri balls full of flavorful veggies and spices to Vada Pav, fried potato dumplings on buns, you’ll find something incredible on any street food menu.
Dilbar, Mehfil’s next-door neighbor, is a casual, fast-service Indian street food spot in downtown Asheville, known for the fusion and fun that characterizes the menu. You can opt for a Frankie, a thin whole-wheat wrap around veggies, spices, and some kind of protein, like lamb, paneer, or chicken.
There are also a variety of dosa, or thin pancakes filled with sauces, veggies, and proteins. Every food, whether handheld or a more traditional meal, will be some of the best Indian food in Asheville, we guarantee!
8. Chai Pani
Chai Pani has a well-known reputation as a James Beard award winner in 2022 due to their cultivation of an incredible variety of Indian street food. Their name means “tea and water” and is a slang phrase for going for a nibble or a snack, and their menu reflects that – every dish is focused on being tasty and flavorful but usually easy to take on the go.
They’ve created rolls out of naan bread, filled with Butter Chicken or Saag Paneer. Don’t skimp on the various sauces and chutneys served with each dish, by the way – they are my favorite, even among the best Indian restaurants in Asheville, and that’s saying something since flavorful and well-spiced sauces are present at all of these restaurants!
There you have it! The 8 best Indian restaurants in Asheville, NC. Where’s your favorite place to grab Indian food in Asheville? Let us know so we can add them to the list!
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