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Find fresh, authentic fare at Chowpatty Chat Co.
Find fresh, authentic fare at Chowpatty Chat Co.
Chowpatty/Facebook

Dining In Little India: Your Guide To Eating Houston's Mahatma Gandhi District

Indian, Pakistani, and Persian cuisines await.

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Find fresh, authentic fare at Chowpatty Chat Co.
| Chowpatty/Facebook

Nestled between the Westpark Tollway and Highway 59 is the Mahatma Gandhi District, more commonly known as Houston's "Little India." A tiny but dense enclave in west Houston, this neighborhood has long been a favorite for homesick expats. Visit sometime, and you'll see why.

Although there are Afghani, Pakistani and Persian restaurants on this map, the Mahatma Gandhi District is more commonly associated with the foods of southern India. In the south, recipes are (mostly) vegetarian. Rice and lentil flours replace wheat, and tomatoes and onions are often served raw rather than cooked into stews. That means light, vibrant meals that pack the same spicy punch.

But meat-lovers need not despair. In Pakistan and Iran, beef, lamb, goat or chicken are central to many dishes; in Afghani cuisine, meat can be found in nearly everything. No matter what kind of food you like, the message is clear: Get down to the Mahatma Gandhi District ASAP to celebrate Houston's rich culinary diversity one delicious bite at a time.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Bijan Persian Grill

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If you've been to any of those massive restaurants/hookah bars along Richmond Avenue, Bijan will look familiar. But while most of those places dish out Mediterranean food, Bijan instead offers classic Persian stews like ghormeh sabzi (beef, greens, kidney beans) and fesenjan (walnuts, pomegrante, chicken). Although the chicken is a bit dry, the subtly-sweet fesanjan will convert even the least adventurous of eaters.
Bijan/Facebook

Bismillah Cafe

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Not to be confused with Bismillah Restaurant, which is two doors down and owned by the same people. Bismillah Café dishes out Pakistani versions of American classics. (Think: cheeseburgers, fries, hot wings.) Try the beef chapli kebab burger, which is loaded with onions and spices and covered with cheese. If burgers aren't for you, get the aptly named Spicy Wings. Closed on Mondays.
Afkham M./Yelp

Bombay Sweets

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Don't let the name fool you: Bombay Sweets is decidedly savory. This gem is known for its all-you-can-eat buffet, which offers a wide variety of vegetarian curries for just $7.99 plus tax. Another must-try is the samosa chaat: a potato samosa, chopped up and garnished with chickpeas, red onions and a medley of bright sauces.
Bombay Sweets/Facebook

Chowpatty Chat Co.

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A friendly establishment with vintage Bollywood posters on the walls, Chowpatty offers Indian fast food in a bright, diner-like setting. Central to its menu is the chaat — a style of Indian street food that usually pairs crispy carbs with fresh veggies and sauces. If you want something more filling, try the pav bhaji: a rich vegetable curry, served like a build-it-yourself sloppy joe. Closed on Tuesdays.
Chowpatty Chat Co./Facebook

Himalaya Restaurant

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Although Himalaya also serves Indian food, many of its best dishes are from Pakistan. One classic is the “Hunter's Beef”— a delightful Pakistani take on pastrami, served with a buttery and pungent sauce. (You can also get it plain, with a side of tomatoes, but don't do that.) The piquant qeema, which the menu describes as “Texas chili without the beans,” is sure to satisfy even the most intense spicy-food cravings. Closed on Mondays.

Hot Breads

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Half French bakery, half sandwich shop, this barebones deli is too unique not to include. The paninis are exactly what you might expect from a deli sandwich — lettuce, tomatoes, American cheese, herbed roll — but instead of cold cuts, you can get fillings like paneer, curried potatoes or chicken tikka masala. Try the tikka masala – the meat is tender and flavorful and goes disturbingly well with the American cheese. (Note: Hot Breads is cash only for orders $10 and under)
Hot Breads

Kwality Ice Cream

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Kwality is your neighborhood ice-cream spot with more interesting flavors (rose, pistachio, betel leaf). But with all this goodness in full view, Kwality's real treat is a little more hidden. Bars of kulfi — a thick, Indian ice cream — are in a freezer behind the register. Get one (or several).
Jay M./Yelp

Masala Munchies

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This pared-down snack-and-sweetshop stays loyal to the classics, including burfi: a fudge-like product that's made from sweetened condescended milk, nut or chickpea flour and flavorings (mango, chocolate, etc.) The actual menu is small, but it includes some inventive plays on traditional Indian snacks. The “munchie chaat,” which combines potatoes with “munchie mix,” is a must. Closed on Mondays.
Masala Munchies/Facebook

Saffron Kabob House

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Tucked away on the second floor of a shopping mall, this charming Afghani restaurant can be easy to miss. Don't let that happen, at least not if like your lamb cooked to tender perfection. (Vegetarians, on the other hand, won't be missing much.) Order the chopan kabob: marinated and grilled lamb ribs, served with rice. Garnish it with the cilantro sauce on your table, which has a bright, intensely sour taste.
Saffron Kabob House/Facebook

Shri Balaji Bhavan

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Some say that Shri Balaji Bhavan is the best Indian food in Houston. They might be right. The casual restaurant is known for its chaat (see above) and its dosas (basically, a giant Indian crepe). Start with the pani puri — crunchy, hollow Indian crackers, which you crack open with your teeth and fill with goodies. Then, get the butter masala dosa, which is loaded with curried potatoes and finished with clarified butter. Closed on Tuesdays.
Haseeb K./Yelp

Bijan Persian Grill

Bijan/Facebook
If you've been to any of those massive restaurants/hookah bars along Richmond Avenue, Bijan will look familiar. But while most of those places dish out Mediterranean food, Bijan instead offers classic Persian stews like ghormeh sabzi (beef, greens, kidney beans) and fesenjan (walnuts, pomegrante, chicken). Although the chicken is a bit dry, the subtly-sweet fesanjan will convert even the least adventurous of eaters.
Bijan/Facebook

Bismillah Cafe

Afkham M./Yelp
Not to be confused with Bismillah Restaurant, which is two doors down and owned by the same people. Bismillah Café dishes out Pakistani versions of American classics. (Think: cheeseburgers, fries, hot wings.) Try the beef chapli kebab burger, which is loaded with onions and spices and covered with cheese. If burgers aren't for you, get the aptly named Spicy Wings. Closed on Mondays.
Afkham M./Yelp

Bombay Sweets

Bombay Sweets/Facebook
Don't let the name fool you: Bombay Sweets is decidedly savory. This gem is known for its all-you-can-eat buffet, which offers a wide variety of vegetarian curries for just $7.99 plus tax. Another must-try is the samosa chaat: a potato samosa, chopped up and garnished with chickpeas, red onions and a medley of bright sauces.
Bombay Sweets/Facebook

Chowpatty Chat Co.

Chowpatty Chat Co./Facebook
A friendly establishment with vintage Bollywood posters on the walls, Chowpatty offers Indian fast food in a bright, diner-like setting. Central to its menu is the chaat — a style of Indian street food that usually pairs crispy carbs with fresh veggies and sauces. If you want something more filling, try the pav bhaji: a rich vegetable curry, served like a build-it-yourself sloppy joe. Closed on Tuesdays.
Chowpatty Chat Co./Facebook

Himalaya Restaurant

Although Himalaya also serves Indian food, many of its best dishes are from Pakistan. One classic is the “Hunter's Beef”— a delightful Pakistani take on pastrami, served with a buttery and pungent sauce. (You can also get it plain, with a side of tomatoes, but don't do that.) The piquant qeema, which the menu describes as “Texas chili without the beans,” is sure to satisfy even the most intense spicy-food cravings. Closed on Mondays.

Hot Breads

Hot Breads
Half French bakery, half sandwich shop, this barebones deli is too unique not to include. The paninis are exactly what you might expect from a deli sandwich — lettuce, tomatoes, American cheese, herbed roll — but instead of cold cuts, you can get fillings like paneer, curried potatoes or chicken tikka masala. Try the tikka masala – the meat is tender and flavorful and goes disturbingly well with the American cheese. (Note: Hot Breads is cash only for orders $10 and under)
Hot Breads

Kwality Ice Cream

Jay M./Yelp
Kwality is your neighborhood ice-cream spot with more interesting flavors (rose, pistachio, betel leaf). But with all this goodness in full view, Kwality's real treat is a little more hidden. Bars of kulfi — a thick, Indian ice cream — are in a freezer behind the register. Get one (or several).
Jay M./Yelp

Masala Munchies

Masala Munchies/Facebook
This pared-down snack-and-sweetshop stays loyal to the classics, including burfi: a fudge-like product that's made from sweetened condescended milk, nut or chickpea flour and flavorings (mango, chocolate, etc.) The actual menu is small, but it includes some inventive plays on traditional Indian snacks. The “munchie chaat,” which combines potatoes with “munchie mix,” is a must. Closed on Mondays.
Masala Munchies/Facebook

Saffron Kabob House

Saffron Kabob House/Facebook
Tucked away on the second floor of a shopping mall, this charming Afghani restaurant can be easy to miss. Don't let that happen, at least not if like your lamb cooked to tender perfection. (Vegetarians, on the other hand, won't be missing much.) Order the chopan kabob: marinated and grilled lamb ribs, served with rice. Garnish it with the cilantro sauce on your table, which has a bright, intensely sour taste.
Saffron Kabob House/Facebook

Shri Balaji Bhavan

Haseeb K./Yelp
Some say that Shri Balaji Bhavan is the best Indian food in Houston. They might be right. The casual restaurant is known for its chaat (see above) and its dosas (basically, a giant Indian crepe). Start with the pani puri — crunchy, hollow Indian crackers, which you crack open with your teeth and fill with goodies. Then, get the butter masala dosa, which is loaded with curried potatoes and finished with clarified butter. Closed on Tuesdays.
Haseeb K./Yelp

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