As we burrow deeper into the winter season, and the threat of snow mounts, I have been forced to speed up Operation Black Bear. What is Operation Black Bear, you ask? It’s my plan to withstand the weather, through three simple steps. One, consume as many calories as possible. Two, fall asleep. Three, wake up next year.
I’m quite proud of this plan, especially step one. It plays to one of Asheville’s greatest strengths: fantastic cuisine. Speaking of which, I’ve found that the Indian food in Asheville is some of the best in this hemisphere. If you too wish to experience the joys of Asheville’s Indian restaurant—and perhaps embark on your own rendition of Operation Black Bear—then I invite you to read on and discover the five best spots for Indian food in Asheville.
Lying on downtown’s North Lexington—just a skip away from Dobra Tea—I consider Mela my point-of-reference for Indian food in Asheville. With culinary influences from across the subcontinent, Mela sports one of those weighty menus one expects of a proper Indian restaurant.
From tandoori, to vindaloo, to paneer, Mela serves up solid executions of all the staple dishes. If you’ve got a go-to Indian dish—palak paneer, in my case—and happen to be downtown, Mela is the obvious choice for Indian food in Asheville.
The Matter of Parking: As the old saying goes, “You can’t eat if you can’t park.” To that end, I’ll highlight the McLaurin paid parking lot just north of Mela. Although it may appear overly slender from the outside, it’s one of the most reliable lots in downtown Asheville.
Yet another downtown contender, Chai Pani prides itself on a modern take on Indian street-food. Here you can expect sandwiches and wraps with classic Indian fillings (enter the spiced-lamb sloppy joe), alongside curries and pakoras. Pair your entrée with a mango lassi or cold chai, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for some grade-A Indian food in Asheville.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention their matchstick okra fries. After all, this dish combines three of my favorite foods.
The Matter of Parking: Chai Pani lies nearby the Wall Street Garage, and just north of there, parking at the Grove Arcade, a bastion of downtown amusements.
I may be bending the rules a bit here, as Blue Dream is more of an “Asheville international curry restaurant” than an “Asheville Indian restaurant.” That said, I couldn’t very well include Blue Dream in the Five Best Barbecue Restaurants in Asheville, so here it is.
Blue Dream’s curries hail from all the hotbeds of curry-culture, from Thailand, to the U.K., and of course, India. Each kind has its own unique flair, confirming once and for all that you can survive on a diet of pure curry.
Whereas the other Asheville Indian Restaurants on this list can serve as a lunch or dinner destination, Blue Dream’s Asian-inspired cocktails and IPA’s would pin it as more of a night-on-the-town sort of place.
The Matter of Parking: Blue Dream lies on downtown’s Patton Avenue—known for its stellar restaurants—just south of Chai Pani. Therefore, I’d suggest again parking at the Grove Arcade or Wall Street Garage. The walk from these locales is short and pleasant.
The geographically inclined may notice that Kathmandu is in fact the capital of Nepal and then question whether I’ve decided to throw the whole “Indian Food in Asheville” thing out the window entirely.
In fact, while I’ll concede that Nepal and India are definitely different countries, Nepalese cuisine draws strongly on the influences of its neighbors. Therefore, Kathmandu Kitchen not only provides worthy tandoori and naan, but chili chicken reminiscent of its northern neighbor.
On top of these Indo-Chinese flavors, they also serve dishes unique to Nepal, such as yak dumplings, made with local organic yak.
I’m not joking. These yaks are Ashevilleans.
The Matter of Parking: Kathmandu Kitchen is yet another entry into Patton Avenue’s arsenal of restaurants, meaning the past three entries can all be accessed from the same parking.
Cinnamon Kitchen has been my preferred spot for Indian food in Asheville since time immemorable, and the answer, I think, lies in simplicity.
That’s not to say Cinnamon Kitchen serves up simple food. Their dishes are jam-packed with rich spices and cream; seldom it is one leaves without leftovers. But whereas the downtown Asheville Indian restaurants tend to sport some kind of twist, Cinnamon Kitchen focuses on the fundamentals, leading to incredible consistency. You can simply close your eyes, point at the menu, order a hot chai, and have an excellent meal.
The Matter of Parking: Since Cinnamon Kitchen lies in south Asheville—my personal domain—it has its own parking lot, with free, open spaces as far as the eye can see. Yet another feather in the cap of this Asheville Indian restaurant.
Mela Indian Restaurant
70 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Chai Pani Asheville (828)-254-4003
22 Battery Park Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Blue Dream Curry House
81 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
90 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
1838 Hendersonville Rd #103, Asheville, NC 28803