Founded in 1995 by Gary and Isabel MacGurn, Hampton Chutney has grown from a small operation that supplied gourmet markets in the Hamptons to a veritable enterprise, where the delicious dosas and kati rolls keep seats filled and mouths happy at cafes in Amagansett and the Upper West Side. In addition to traditional dosa (sour-dough crepes filled with chutney) selections, the relocated Soho branch serves several specialty sandwiches that incorporate everything from cilantro chutney dressing to chicken curry. If you need something more substantial, look to their Thali special, which includes a daily vegetable dish along with basmati rice, dal soup, naan, chutney, yogurt and, optionally, grilled chicken.
Recommended for Indian because: These wrap stars introduced New York to dosas and kati rolls nearly 20 years ago. The city has (thankfully) never been the same.
Courtney's expert tip: The proximity to New York University can make this casual, well-priced boite a crowded affair. Try stopping by during off-hours, like late afternoon or weekday lunch.
Benares is a city in Northern India (in Uttar Pradesh) and this restaurant focuses on the culinary dishes from this region. The walls are lined with framed banarsi saris and this Tribeca location can seat up to 89 people comfortably. Uttar Pradesh (or UP) is known for its vegetarian dishes and the menu at Benares delivers with standouts like Kashmiri Soup of roasted turnip and beetroot, pigeon peas, fennel, ginger, garlic and cumin. There are also inventive meat dishes, such as the tandoori hen, which marinates a whole Cornish hen in lime, ginger, cumin, garlic and garam masala and cooks it in the tandoori oven. Grab a spacious booth which will provide room for a sure-to-be-distended belly.
Recommended for Indian because: With two locations in New York, Benares is a restaurant with a plethora of dishes, all of which are good. Proceed with caution.
Courtney's expert tip: The prix fixe lunch or buffet is a good way to fill up for less than $15.
You'll be greeted by a bejeweled elephant at the entrance and transported by the village atmosphere complete with a banyan tree, amber lighting and prosaic murals. Vatan was among the very first dining rooms to focus exclusively on vegetarian cuisine and on the regional cuisine of Gujarat in northwest India. The prix-fixe meals have set menus for Jain, gluten and nut-free palates that take the guesswork out of ordering. The accommodating staff glides from one table to the next serving a parade of delightful dishes in the thali format. Guests will be dazzled by the aromas and textures: from batatavada (potato balls fried in a chickpea flour batter), a delicate selection of samosas, ful cobi (based on cauliflower and green peas), mirchi bhaji (fried hot peppers with chaat masala) and breads: papadam (lentil wafers), puri and roti.
Recommended for Indian because: Vatan was among the first to feature regional cuisine from Gujarat and remains a favorite among Gramercy vegetarians and Indian purists.
Maria's expert tip: Ideal for an intimate dinner in an exotic locale, right outside your door. Book early, kick your shoes off, feel free to linger.
Don't let it go to his head, but we like Hermant Mathur's cooking so much, we have included two of his restaurants on this list. One of the nations top tandoor masters has done it again as executive chef of Chote Nawab, one of 6 Indian eateries in New York City he contributes to. Chote Nawab translates to "little prince" and the intention is to have you eating as well as the Nawabs of India, the foodies of their day. Kababs and Dum Biryana are specialties, with meat marinated overnight and soaked in yogurt to contribute to its tender texture. The concrete walls decorated with bright plates contributes to the contemporary cozy feel.
Recommended for Indian because: Signature dishes from Hyderabad to Kerala served with naan so fluffy, you may need to limit yourself.
Maria's expert tip: If you can, make reservations. Eating great Indian food is a popular activity in New York, especially here.
Before there were artisanal food trucks in Hell's Kitchen, or mobile Milk Bars at the Brooklyn Flea, there was this humble Greenwich Village vendor dishing out New York City's best dosas. The word is out on Thiru Kumar's (or Dosa Man, as he is often called) popular street snack, which parks on the corner of Washington Square Park and attracts a long line of South Asian ex-pats, hungry college students and stylishly unkempt hipsters. The crowd-pleasing Pondicherry masala dosa combines curried potatoes, chopped peppers and diced carrots in a paper-thin, lentil and rice flour crepe, and the lentil soup is hearty and homey. At less than $6, it's one of the best bargains in New York City.
Recommended for Indian because: Better known as the Dosa Man, Kumar opened his tiny world-renowned cart, NY Dosas (a dosa is a South Indian crepe), in 2001.
Maria's expert tip: Though something of a fixture in the neighborhood, Kumar's cart stays put from Mon.-Sat. but check his Twitter feed (@nydosas) for closing time.
Dawat is one of New York's pioneers as it debuted in 1986 and won this year's Diners' Choice Award and it still pleases. The driving force behind the North (and occasionally South) Indian menu is famous Bollywood actress/author/chef aMadhur Jaffrey. Even when it sticks to the basics, like lemon rice perfumed with lemon rind, curry leaves and mustard seeds, it feels sleek and refined. Dawat means "invitation to a feast" and the room is elegant and aromatic, tandoor and curry dishes wafting in the air. Try the raan, a tender leg of lamb which is braised with spices then roasted in a tandoor oven until it is crispy on the outside and silky on the inside.
Recommended for Indian because: Regulars return again and again for the great service and innovative food that features such spicy treats as bhel poori, shrimp and salmon.
Maria's expert tip: Tasting menus are the perfect option for a roaring appetite, priced at $45 for three courses, $65 for four and $75 for five.
On a mission to eat like a king on a plebeian budget? Give this casual Indian spot in Midtown East a shot. The lunch buffet, priced at under $15-$18 on weekends, is a neighborhood steal. Come early and come often to tuck into traditional favorites like saag aloo, daal makhni, bhuni gobi matter and rich, creamy butter chicken. The a-la-carte menu is vast, with dosas and tandoori fare alongside goat curry with dry red chilies, and cumin-scented jeera ghee rice. The modest interiors are tastefully decorated, and service is professional and friendly. Chola is one of six sister restaurants created by Shiva Natarajan Dhaba: Chote Nawab, Haldi, Malia Marke (East 6th St.) and Sahib. Shiva has moved on to write and sold these glorious corners of India to Michelin star chef Hemant Mathur.
Recommended for Indian because: There is no shortage of Indian lunch buffets in Manhattan, but Chola is distinct for variety, service and stellar cuisine.
Maria's expert tip: All of the carb-centric rotiyan on the menu are great, but Martha Stewart and Gwen Stefani confess to chowing down on the onion naan with gusto. Lunch boxes cost just $10.
Grandeur is the word that comes to mind at this fine dining outpost on the border of Chelsea and the Flatiron District. The heavy-handled door and building exteriors are covered in hand-chiseled limestone, invoking a New Delhi palace. The expansive dining room contains reflecting pools filled with lotus flowers, dimly lit banquettes surrounded by white tablecloths, and no shortage of oversized, pink-hued limestone statues. None of this would matter, though, if the menu weren't so solid. Try the Goan shrimp, packing heat in a spicy piri-piri sauce, grilled monkfish in yogurt sauce with serrano chilies, and handi favorites like chicken Malvan. Junoon means "passion" and we can feel it.
Recommended for Indian because: Patrons have remarked "It is worth going broke here." Junoon's Jaipur-goes-to-West-Hollywood atmosphere totally delivers.
Maria's expert tip: Skip the fancy, overly complicated desserts and opt for the satisfying coconut rice pudding. At lunch a three course menu cost $30 vs. $70 for dinner.
Tamarind changed perceptions of modern Indian dining in New York. Crisp white linens, soft lighting, and service so attentive it could make the staff of the Four Seasons (discreetly) blush, the restaurant was a bold departure from the fast-food vibe and fluorescent bulbs of the (admittedly delicious) takeout joints in nearby Curry Hill. Now in TriBeCa, well-dressed groups of business associates, couples celebrating anniversaries and multi-generational family outings gaze at the glass-enclosed tandoor kitchen while enjoying dishes like fresh shrimp in a cumin-spiked coconut sauce, apricot-stuffed grilled lamb and crispy fritters with whole spinach, banana and cheese.
Recommended for Indian because: Tamarind serves top-tier Indian cuisine in impossibly elegant environs. Wear your Sunday best.
Maria's expert tip: Sip tea in the Lotus Room where award-winning chefs have created a menu featuring dishes prepared with India's national flower. Tamarind is an adult pleasure, best to leave the under 8s at home for the night.