A Delectable Dining Guide to Ethnic Food in Delaware • Indian Restaurants
Get ready to awaken your taste buds.
Tandoori chicken from Indigo//Photo by Steve Legato
NORTH VS. SOUTH: WHICH IS FOR YOU?
Though it’s nearly impossible to neatly divide the rich culture of the country into two categories, a basic understanding of the varied approaches to Indian cuisine can begin with a comparison of North Indian food to South Indian.
Many of the dishes enjoyed in America—a dish of cheese cubes simmered in spinach known as palak paneer, breads such as naan and roti, and the dumplings called samosas—hail from North India, where wheat is generally favored over rice as a starch. The spice garam masala—a heady mix of peppercorns, coriander, cloves, cinnamon and other ingredients—is prevalent in the north, where colder winters call for warming flavors. Grilled meats, chick peas and lentils are also found in abundance, and the dishes are frequently creamier, heavier than elsewhere. Don’t be surprised to see yogurt in your dish.
It’s less common to find restaurants that specialize in the cuisine of South India or other regions, but several in Delaware are mindful of its appeal. Among them are Godavari and Bawarchi in the Wilmington area. In the south of India, lentils and rice are pre-eminent over wheat—manifested in such dishes as the crepes called dosas. The pleasantly sour accents of tamarind are common, and seafood makes an occasional appearance. Coconut is encountered frequently here, and the spice level is generally on the higher side.
Perhaps no single cuisine is more difficult to define, partly because of its broad, sub-continent-spanning origins, and partly because of India’s ready embrace and happy amalgamation of cuisines from cultures and countries across Eurasia. That said, the Indian food most commonly encountered in Delaware leans toward aromatic, intensely seasoned and frequently spicy dishes, with a distinct inclination toward vegetarian preparations. Some—such as chicken tikka masala—aren’t even really from India.
The spicy rice dish known as biryani would seem to rule here, if it weren’t for the solid assortments of Indo-Chinese hybrid dishes, the stews of Northern India, and the tandoori-oven meats that highlight this broad-and-deep menu.
2628 Kirkwood Hwy., Newark, 737-9483 • website
Bawarchi Indian Restaurant
The menu at this no-frills North Wilmington restaurant ranges from South to North and specializes in tandoori dishes, curries and biryanis. The buzz: One of the few Indians to proudly serve goat.
2909 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-3765 • website
Typical of the regional chains that are making inroads here, this upstart is careful to entice rather than intimidate with its menu, which doesn’t shy away from such beloved ingredients as mutton and such consistent favorites as (you guessed it) biryani. The buzz: Try the crab pepper masala ($15).
270 University Drive, Newark, 525-6099 • website
Flavor of India
All-organic menu and twice-weekly buffet dinners have proven to be a hit with Dover diners, leaving them raving about the absolutely fresh naan, parantha and roti breads. They are decidedly misty when recalling the lamb rogan josh ($13.95) and the tandoori oven specials.
348 N. DuPont Hwy., Dover, 677-0121 • website
Rare among local Indian restaurants for its willingness to describe and explain dishes on the menu, this chain specializes in South Indian, but seems to cover all of its bases, from Indo-Chinese to tandoori to biryani to roti.
3615 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 999-0286 • website
Though the menu doesn’t stray too far from familiar territory, the reputation is solidly situated at this northern New Castle County favorite, where the prices are fair, the meat is all-Halal, and the lunch buffet is a constant temptation. (Check out the South Indian buffet on weekends.)
3456 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 478-2428 • website
Good prices help counter the unenviable location of this longtime insiders’ favorite, known for its owners’ conviviality and its honest, heartfelt cooking. The buzz: Don’t miss the tandoori oven specials.
101 N. Maryland Ave., Wilmington, 655-8772 • website
There’s a decidedly upscale edge to the food and the feel of this new beach destination, which kindly notes its
vegan selections and works to keep an authentic, uncompromising edge in a world full of homogenized Indian food. As one reviewer breathlessly notes: “One of the spiciest curries we’ve had west of the Atlantic Ocean.”
44 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 212-5220 • website
A splendid selection of stuffed dosa crepes, along with a truly solid assortment of vegetarian and vegan options, help set Maharaja apart, though one-time fans have been beefing lately about this one-time star’s dimming light.
1450 Capitol Trail, No. 121, Newark, 369-1202 • website
The too-typical world of Indian food in Delaware takes a step into modern times at Masala, where online ordering and pick-up is encouraged, and where the all-vegetarian menu takes some intriguing leaps into Indian street food, deconstructed samosas, and other out-of-the-ordinary finds.
825 N. Market St., Wilmington, 482-3736; New Castle Farmers Market, 110 N. DuPont Hwy., New Castle, 544-6979 • website
Palace of Asia
Thanks to its plush decor, there’s a more-regal feel than at most Indian restaurants here, though one-time regulars do lament that this suburban standby has slipped a bit.
3421 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 994-9200 • website
Tavva Indian Café
Tavva’s now-closed Main Street Newark location was beloved not so much for its spare, cold decor as for its quality and execution. Luckily that quality cooking survives at the New Castle restaurant, and is rumored to soon be coming back to Main Street. The buzz: Try the Kati Rolls, an Indian street food consisting of a skewer-roasted kebab wrapped in a paratha bread.
801 Churchman’s Road Extension, New Castle, 444-4310 • website
Taj Mahal Fine Indian Restaurant
This new-ish favorite quickly gained a core group of devoted regulars by covering all the bases and doing it well. Looking for an introduction? Order one of the thali specials for a wide assortment of foods. Taj Mahal gets big points for its selection of dosa.
2314 Carpenter Station Road, Wilmington, 475-0840 • website