Best Indian Restaurants in the DC, Maryland and Virginia Area
Indian cuisine has always been dubbed as uber spicy and tangy, often laden with plenty of lentils and clarified butter (or ghee). Being an Indian myself, the hunt for good Indian food in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area has led me to explore the many cafes and restaurants in the area. In opinion, the best Indian restaurants in any place must serve food that’s authentic to the country. While my tastes are a mix of south and north India, I’ve had the inkling to explore both south Indian and north Indian cuisine to the fullest.
In this article, let me show you show to explore authentic Indian food in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area and what at ask for at each place.
Before I jump into that, let me clarify a few doubts that people may have about Indian cuisine:
- Spice level – At most restaurants, you get to choose your spice level (from low/medium/high). Specify the level of spice when ordering the food, if the waiter has not yet asked you.
- Oil-free food – To be honest, there are very few foods in the Indian cuisine plethora served at restaurants that are oil-free. A biryani is heavy in calories; while if you go for steamed options, you may find that lesser or no oil is used.
- Hands-on experience! – Indian food does call for using hands when eating (especially for dosas, a famous lentil crepe). You can always opt out, but I recommend going the traditional way with clean freshly-washed hands to get the right flavor of the food.
- Sauces and sides – Indian snacks like medu vada are eaten with chutney (a mélange of seasoned coconut in flavors of curry leaves, mint, coriander or tomato) and sometimes with tangy tamarind or chilly sauces.
- Indian vs. Pakistani vs. Afghani cuisine – While we are all one at heart and have similarities in food, core Indian restaurants have signature styles that are distinctly native to India. Naan and biryani are common across the countries, but chutneys and certain sweets like payasam are found only in India.
Best Indian Restaurants in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area:
So if you are looking for the best Indian foods in the DMV region, I suggest the following outlets. Each restaurant has a certain something that you must try, and that’s what I recommend, instead of randomly choosing items on the menu. So firstly;
Paradise Biryani Pointe
What to try: Biryani
Indian food is synonymous with biryani around the world. It’s perhaps the single most wholesome Indian dish that’s reached to all parts of the globe. This calorie-rich meal comprises of fried onions, cashews and raisins resting on a bed of flavored basmati rice and steamed meat or veggies.
Biryani also comes in different flavors in various parts of India. So that makes it your decision regarding which biryani to try out.
The biryani at Paradise Biryani Pointe is strictly Hyderabadi. Its colorful rice with hints of many fragrant spices houses a secret masala blend known only to the owners. I have yet to find a biryani which satisfies my biryani craving so completely, both in terms of quality and quantity. You’ll need to enjoy the biryani at Paradise Biryani Pointe at at least medium-spicy level to get the true taste.
Location: 11274 James Swart Cir, Fairfax, VA 22030
Kalpasi Indian Cuisine
What to try: Appam
This south-Indian restaurant prides itself in serving the soft lacy rice pancakes – the appam. Essentially a blend of fermented rice and coconut, the appam is usually eaten with egg curry, coconut milk or plain sugar (my style!). I have yet to find another Indian restaurant in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area other than Kalpasi which serves this south Indian delicacy.
If you are aware of any, please let me know in the comments below.
Location: 13055 Worldgate Dr, Herndon, VA 20170
What to try: the weekend buffet
Again south Indian in nature, the Godavari restaurant is a long-known name in Indian cuisine on the East Coast. But to really enjoy their food, visit their Maryland restaurant on weekends to sample their buffet. Their other branches were not satisfactory in my experience. Their buffet had items that each had a distinct taste – a plus when coming to eating out in large quantities.
Location: 9011 Gaither Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20877
What to try: crispy spinach chaat
If you’re looking for an upscale restaurant to celebrate a formal occasion, then Rasika is the one for you! Dined in by even the President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Rasika is worth the few extra bucks spent. Dishes like the crispy spinach chaat and cardamom ice cream and must-tries here!
Location: 33 D St NW, Washington, DC 20004
What to try: any of their pizzas
A low-key pizza place famous for their desi toppings, Pizza 360 serves delicious Indian-style pizza on a bed of cheese and crust. What I like about them is that their flavors and toppings decently fuse both Indian and Italian styles. While I wouldn’t dine in here due to space restrictions, take out is the way to go with Pizza 360. Plus you also get discounts on takeout orders as printed on your receipt.
Location: 21760 Beaumeade Cir STE 130, Ashburn, VA 20147
What to try: Fried fish
Proudly the cuisine of my own state, this is the only Kerala or Keralite restaurant in the DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area. Kerala cuisine is high on coconut flavor and fried fish is a specialty at this Kerala restaurant. Upon request, Pepper Club also has other Kerala or Malabar food items with its signature curry leaf fragrance in copious quantities. The biryani here is also a specialized blend which I felt was a mix of north Indian and south Indian tastes.
Location: 5639 Stone Rd, Centreville, VA 20120
The traditional 21+ side dish Kerala meal – Kerala Sadhya – Read here to know all about this rich South Indian staple!
Choolah Indian BBQ
What to try: grilled chicken
Choolah Indian BBQ easily serves the tastiest Indian meatballs and grilled chicken in the DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area. The grilled chicken I’ve had here were juicy and grilled to perfection, with the marinate really coming through. Quantities are small and prices are slightly high, but the food – delicious!
Location: 2911 District Ave, Fairfax, VA 22031
So that’s it – a round about of the best Indian restaurants in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area. I can add endlessly to this list, but for the very best, it’s right here on top. If you’d like to recommend any good Indian restaurants around, I’d love to try it out. I’m still searching for a good place to find Malabar biryani on the East Coast. Let me know in the comments below if you know of any or simply would like to say ‘hi!’