No matter how hard you look, you won’t find Tampa at the top of many lists. However, the diversity of our region endows us with some strengths, such as a bustling culinary scene. This is why when national restaurant chains want to test a new concept, they almost always start here. Alongside thriving Cuban, Puerto Rican, Jewish, Italian and other communities, thousands of people of Indian descent call our area home. Some have made significant contributions to shape our city, such as Drs. Pallavi and Kiran Patel who founded the Patel Conservatory for the Performing Arts and the Patel School of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida. With the growth of Tampa Bay’s Indian community comes some delicious Indian cuisine, now available in dozens of locations. Here are five of our favorite purveyors of curry, tikka and other specialties from this unique subcontinent.
511 N. Franklin St.
Tampa, FL 33602
Until last year, downtown Tampa lacked one thing: an Indian restaurant. Tun-Du-Ree fills this need with its excellent quality and affordable prices. The specialty of this Indian food oasis comes in the form of its curries, including the delightful butter chicken curry. A favorite for some, the lamb vindaloo comes seasoned to perfection. Don’t miss the authentic samosas and fresh-from-the-oven garlic naan bread as an appetizer. After moving from its first location on Kennedy Boulevard, the new restaurant has taken a significant step forward in terms of decor to improve the overall dining experience.
India’s Grill Kennedy
4843 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33609
While from the outside it may appear that this restaurant is located inside a gas station, in fact India’s Grill on Kennedy merely shares the same building. Perhaps the unexpected location plays a role in the affordable prices, as you’ll find the best Indian lunch buffet available in the Bay area here at a reasonable price. Offered only during weekdays, it’s worth taking time out of your day for a real lunch hour here. In terms of meals to order, fans of this hidden treasure also rave about the garlic naan bread, fish and lamb curries and chicken dishes such as pepper chicken and tikka masala. A recent renovation added more space for the buffet, as well as more comfortable seating.
7201 66th St. N.
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
As opposed to the Southern Indian cuisine that seems to dominate the Bay area’s Indian restaurants, Clay Oven openly proclaims it’s Punjabi, or northern Indian influence. What also sets this eatery apart from its competitors is that it uses an actual clay oven for baking and cooking, which tenderizes meats and browns naan bread to perfection. Diners will find a wide array of vegetarian dishes as part of the lunch buffet, including daal, okra, paneer and pakora, ready to top with several fresh sauces. Some house specialties include the lamb saag and butter chicken.
Gateway To India
8300 Bay Pines Blvd.
St. Petersburg, FL 33709
As the name hints, Gateway to India intends to transport you across the globe to a land far, far away, not only through the food but also with its decor and ambiance. Wood paneling, tapestries and art pieces distinguish the restaurant from others nearby. The samosas, korma, lamb madras, chicken tikka masala, vindaloos and roti all earn high marks at Gateway. An attentive staff, a focus on cleanliness and plenty of vegan and vegetarian options are sure to please even the most discerning of clients. However, beware that the kitchen is notorious for going light on spiciness, so round up instead of rounding down your spice quotient when you order.
Taste of India
1241 E Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33612
Taste of India has mastered the phenomenon of the ideal Indian buffet. With a variety of salads, main courses and dessert offerings, everyone can find something they love here. Far from the traditional salad bar, the one at Taste of India includes unique chickpea, potato salad and coconut chili-inspired dishes. Several goat and chicken options await along the main course table, like the classic chicken korma, along with vegetarian favorites like eggplant, chana and mushroom masalas. Wash down the spiciness with an authentic mango lassi, the Indian answer to a smoothie. The top of the dessert cart includes rice pudding and gulab jamun. Service depends on the time of day, as this place can fill up quite quickly around lunch time.
Aaron Phillips has experience in marketing and journalism. Recently back to his hometown, he’s excited to discover and share what Tampa has to offer. His work can be found at Examiner.com.