clockwise from center: chicken biryani, dal makhani and bhendi masala at khanna's desi vibes photo by david kovaluk

You need to try these 7 St. Louis-area Indian restaurants

When I go to Indian restaurants, I immediately assess them based on a few menu staples: naan that’s fluffy and seasoned; well-made lentil dishes; cooling raita, a yogurt sauce with a hint of tang; and the rice has to be perfect – hot, not too soft, and with a bit of spice to give it some aroma. In my mom’s Indian kitchen, she only cooks vegetarian dishes, so it’s what I like to order most at Indian restaurants. Here are seven St. Louis spots I keep returning to. While it’s not food made by mom, they each remind me in some way of home.

jasraj singh nagra, from left, has a pre-service meal with his parents, co-owners jaimini paul nagar and jaswinder singh nagar at flavors indian cuisine // photo by david kovaluk

Flavors Indian Cuisine
Here, you cannot go wrong: The menu is big, and it’s all good. I love their paneer tikka masala, decadent from cubes of housemade cheese in a creamy sauce flecked with onions and peppers, as well as the mixed vegetables with potatoes, carrots and beans. Try both with a side order of raita, a sauce with shredded cucumber, carrot and salt that helps cool down spicy dishes. Tandoori chicken lovers will enjoy their version, expertly executed every time with juicy, tender chicken marinated in yogurt and warm spices like cumin and coriander. No home-cooked Indian meal is complete without dal; their dal makhani, with black lentils, cream and tomatoes, and dal tadka, with yellow lentils, onions, tomatoes, garlic and ginger, are both perfect with either naan or rice. Rice dishes like the vegetable biryani or the Indo-Chinese vegetable fried rice are great options too.
12350 Manchester Road, Des Peres, 314.858.1011,

Taj Palace
This Indian restaurant has been a longstanding stalwart in Chesterfield; it’s where my family goes for an Indian meal out and where so many of my friends have catered their special events. Their naan is my favorite: It’s got those irresistible airy pockets – it’s good, and they know it. Maybe that’s why they have so many varieties: from plain to garlic to cheese to masala to onion kulcha – my mom’s favorite – which is stuffed with onions and herbs. Use the bread for dipping and scooping every dish, like the navratan korma that has a mix of vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes and carrots in a rich, thick tomato-onion sauce.
92 THF Blvd., Chesterfield, 636.728.1000,

pav bhaji at flavors indian cuisine // photo by david kovaluk

Copper Chimney
I’ve tried all my go-to staples here and thought they were all nicely done; however, their version of aloo gobi, a mix of cooked potatoes and cauliflower with turmeric, chiles, cumin and other spices, stands out in my memory in particular. In my experience, aloo gobi is usually not the most exciting dish on a menu, but Copper Chimney’s tasted like it had been in a smoker for some time, adding complexity and a unique twist to the dish in a way I had never had before. It remains my favorite aloo gobi of all time.
200 Mid Rivers Center, St. Peters, 636.278.1833,

House of India
I love House of India’s crispy appetizers like the vegetable pakora with tamarind and mint chutneys – crunchy, spicy, sweet and herbaceous. Their onion bhajia is essentially India’s answer to American onion rings – and equally addictive. Their naan is pillowy, their condiments from the raita to their achaar (spicy, sour pickles) are great accompaniments to cool down or spice up any dish, respectively. Don’t miss their baingan bharta, eggplant that is roasted and smashed and sautéed with ginger, onions and tomatoes. I also rely on their chana masala, which has chickpeas in a tomato-based sauce flavored with butter, onions and spices.
8501 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314.567.6850,

from left: prathamesh vinerkar, owner pravin khanna, vikram joglekar and naresh at khanna's desi vibes // photo by david kovaluk

Khanna's Desi Vibes
When Khanna’s Desi Vibes opened, I was pleasantly surprised that my mom actually liked it – she is a picky eater with exacting standards. Our favorite dish we tried there, which we have since ordered on many other occasions, is their deeply colored dal makhani. Made with black lentils and flavored with garlic and tomatoes, it’s super savory and rich from cream and butter. It’s one of my favorite dishes anywhere at any restaurant. I like it with their naan or their lachaa paratha, a layered, almost laminated flatbread. The restaurant has a number of other menu items that are lovely, like their palak paneer, which is made with a spinach-based stew, or their samosa chaat, a street snack with samosas served split open and topped with yogurt, mint and tamarind chutneys for a saucy appetizer.
13724 Olive Blvd., Chesterfield, 314.392.9348,

tri color paneer tikka at khanna's desi vibes // photo by david kovaluk

When Turmeric first opened, I was happy to see some South Indian specialties on the menu like rasam, a dish many South Indians eat daily. The thakkali rasam broth is a tomato soup flavored with coconut, coriander and black pepper. Their version has some heat as well as sourness and tang from the tomatoes – there’s nothing like rasam to clear your sinuses.

Also on their menu are dosa, which are made from a fermented rice and lentil batter pan-fried into a large, thin crepe; they’re usually stuffed with a cooked potato mixture and served with a tamarind-lentil stew called sambar. At Turmeric, a version finished with truffle oil brings a Western twist to a traditional Indian dish. If you have never tried a dosa before, it’s definitely best eaten by hand.

Also not to be missed here are some of the Indo-Chinese inspired dishes like the cauliflower Manchurian bezule, where fried cauliflower is tossed in a sweet, sticky, spicy sauce. The portions at Turmeric are smaller and the prices are a little higher than some of the other restaurants on this list, but the menu is inventive and creative, making it truly unique to St. Louis.
6679 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314.899.9995,

tandoori mixed platter at flavors indian cuisine // photo by david kovaluk

The vegetable chettinad is my family’s go-to dish here. Mixed vegetables and beans are cooked in a coconut sauce steeped in ingredients like garam masala, mustard seeds, curry leaves, garlic and onion. It’s aromatic and rich without being heavy and is the perfect partner to their plain rice, which is cooked to perfection every time.
25 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, 314.361.6911,