Do the Curry Crawl

The top 10 restaurants in Little India.

This newcomer is outside the traditional confines of Little India, but that's simply a sign — to me, at least — that the district is continuing its pattern of growth. Biryani Pot's high-profile location on Westheimer will hopefully pull more people off the main thoroughfare and onto Hillcroft by way of its vibrant curries and colorfully named dishes like the Goat Chops of Heaven. (The name does not lie; this is the best goat I've had anywhere in Houston.) The Hyderabadi cuisine is never hurried here, and as a result you'll need to be patient. Most days, there's a long wait at the front door, adding to your need for patience — but the food and cheerful, efficient service are absolutely worth it.

2. Shri Balaji Bhavan

Nestled between sari shops and South Asian grocery stores on Hillcroft, this popular spot offers fresh and fiery-hot vegetarian fare in the tradition of South India. Shri Balaji Bhavan's inexpensive menu, sparkling tile floors and thumping Bombay pop draw a diverse crowd of Indian foodies. The popular Madras thali includes seven stainless-steel cups filled with an assortment of dishes flavored with tamarind, coconut and walloping peppers. Other favorites include the dal fry, dosas, handmade breads and dahi puri — the best in Houston, in my personal opinion (which doesn't count for too much, since the little snacks can change drastically in their composition from restaurant to restaurant).

A chili cheeseburger at The Chili Shak.
Katharine Shilcutt
A chili cheeseburger at The Chili Shak.

1. Hot Breads

Believe it or not, this is a fast-food franchise that started in Madras, India, in 1988. The idea was to bring Western-style baked goods to an Indian audience, but the bakery offerings eventually morphed into a European-Indian fusion style. Chicken tikka croissants and goat korma-stuffed puff pastries are popular here, as are the shortbread cookies and tea cakes — although you'll be hard-pressed to meet the $10 credit card minimum even after filling up your cart with goodies, so inexpensive is it all. You can also get hot sandwiches and chaat to round out a simple but filling meal here. Hot Breads also does a swift trade in eggless bread for the Indian community and makes plenty of sugarless pastries, too.

On the Menu

Chilly Weather Food
Six places to get your chili fix.

Katharine Shilcutt

Most of the time, I'm the type of person who thinks that — like barbecue — chili is best made and enjoyed at home. It's simple stuff that dates back nearly 500 years to the first chili recipe, when Bernal Díaz del Castillo, one of Hernán Cortés's captains, described the Cholulan Indian stew in 1519 as containing "tomatoes, salt and chiles." (What's often left out in this tale is that the missing chili ingredient — meat — was meant to come from the conquistadores' slaughtered bodies after the Cholulan Indians killed all of Cortés's men.)

Today, despite chili being the official state food of Texas, it's not a meal that most Texans go out to eat. We go to chili competitions and sample the entries studiously and engage in fierce chili cookoffs, yes. We scream bloody murder when someone suggests putting beans in chili and will argue endlessly with one another over this one ingredient for days.

But what about just seeking out a bowl of comfort when it's cold outside? Below are six suggestions for a bowl of red — not all of them Texan, though.

Armadillo Palace

Armadillo Palace offers my platonic ideal of what a bowl of chili should be: good-sized chunks of meat cooked in a red sauce that's thick but not soupy, well-spiced but not sweat-inducingly spicy. The sweet bites of venison are given depth with a cumin-laced chili sauce and livened up even further with some crunchy raw onion and fresh jalapeños — which are served separately for you to add to the chili at your own discretion. (Now if only someone would tell Armadillo Palace that the wonderful chicken-fried steak should be served the same way, with the cream sauce on the side.)


Haven's wild boar chili epitomizes the sort of upscale down-home Texas cooking that chef Randy Evans specializes in, presented elegantly but without fuss. On top of the chili is a tangy crema in lieu of sour cream (although they're virtually the same thing), minced onions, jalapeño Cheddar cheese and what Haven calls a "corn stick," tilting out of the bowl at a jaunty angle. It's as if someone took the hushpuppies at Catfish King (where my East Texas folks at?) and made them better. I know. Sacrilege. But it's true. And on Wednesdays, that same chili is atop a Frito pie as the day's blue plate lunch special.

Twin Peaks

The venison chili at Twin Peaks actually fits the odd hunting lodge aesthetic of the place and is served very simply, with just a scattering of pepper jack cheese and green onions for bite. This is not a chili for the thinking man; it's a chili that's best enjoyed while grunting at a football game on TV, drinking a "draft beer so cold that ice crystals form in the glass" and taking in the view of the staff's own very prominently displayed Twin Peaks. (Hey, there's a chili out there for everyone!) Beware of going in the evenings, however, when wait times for a table can start at 90 minutes.

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del.martinis topcommenter

Katharine...Bombay's $4.50 all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet is now more like $6.75 but still more than worth it! Actually on our way there now, to turn a friend on to it!