Denver has a vast array of Indian restaurants, everything from small, family-owned hole-in-the-wall spots to massive establishments with expansive menus and multiple locations. And with the temperatures plummeting, a hearty, spicy -- very spicy -- Indian feast could be just the thing to turn up the heat. Here, in no particular order, are our ten favorite Indian restaurants in the Denver area.
10) India's Castle 9555 East Arapahoe Road, Centennial Since 2005, India's Castle has offered authentic tastes of Punjab, a state in the northern region of India. Tapestries and cozy lighting make a comfortable setting as you feast on kormas, curries, flaky samosas and creamy saag. And as an added bonus on Fridays, you can experience India Castle's weekly belly-dancing night.
9) Azitra 535 Zang Street, Suite C, Broomfield Azitra, dubbed an "Indian culinary nirvana," is a departure from your typical Indian restaurant in both design (modern and minimal) and menu, which is divided into two categories: contemporary offerings and traditional entrees. The contemporary offerings range from a tulsi-scented salmon filet in spiced coconut creme to a masala-spiced rack of lamb; goat curry, spiced vindaloo and steamed biryanis satisfy cravings for old standbys.
8) Yak & Yeti Restaurant & Brewpub 7803 Ralston Road, Arvada Yak & Yeti serves up perfectly-spiced Indian and Nepalese fare -- with the additional draw of award-winning beers, brewed in-house and inspired by Indian flavors. Diners can enjoy a Himalayan IPA or Chai Stout while cleaning a plate loaded at the all-you-can-eat buffet. That spread is packed with carnivorous and vegetarian options, including daal, paneer pakora, tandoori breads and meats, masala, vindaloo and Tibetan thupka. For added atmosphere, it's all served in the oldest house in Arvada.
6) Namaste India 5545 Wadsworth Bypass, Arvada Two students from Nepal opened Namaste India in Arvada this year, adding to the area's ethnic mix. The extensive menu includes homestyle favorites: sauce-laden, lightly-spiced meats and curry, plus vindaloo, masala and saag that will please almost any palate -- although our reviewer thought the kitchen could be a little more adventurous.
5) India's Best 1500 West Littleton Boulevard, Littleton India's Best, a family-run Indian joint opened by restaurant vet Hardial Singh, turned a former strip-mall bar into a passage to India. The atmosphere may be bare-bones, but the menu has everything you could want, from clay-oven meats marinated in yogurt, garlic, and ginger, to endless variations of curry, masala, korma and vindaloo. Don't miss the lamb madras rubbed with hot spices, or the tender butter chicken.
4) Masalaa 3140 South Parker Road, Aurora Masalaa has carved out a special spot for itself in the area's array of Indian options: It's food of southern India, all vegetarian, and mostly vegan and gluten-free -- but there's no compromising on flavor. The sprawling menu has many interesting options, featuring a host of fresh vegetables and a vast array of spices. The shabnam curry, for example, mixes mushrooms and green peas, then cooks them with onions and a tomato gravy tempered with curry leaves and red chili. A favorite spot.
3) Bombay Bowl 575 Lincoln Street Bombay Bowl, the fast-casual Indian concept, was inspired by a need for quality Indian food, fresh and cheap. The menu at Bombay Bowl caters to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, offering bowls, plates and rolls with your choice of tikka masala, saag, curry, channa masala or peeli daal. Add spiced tofu, chicken or beef, plus naan, samosas or a creamy mango lassi, and you have an exotic, healthy, inexpensive meal to go.
2) Namaste 3355 South Wadsworth Boulevard, Lakewood If you're heading to Namaste, make sure you've emptied the rest of your day. The vast menu, which ranges from traditional Indian to Tibetan, has something for everyone, and the lunch buffet alone could keep you occupied for hours. Food can be ordered as hot as you can handle.
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1) India's Restaurant 7400 East Hampden Avenue India's Restaurant has been turning out plates of authentic Indian specialties for the last two decades, and continues to do it well. Expect expertly-spiced curries, tandoori meats fresh from the charcoal-fired clay oven, and a host of beautifully prepared vegetarian dishes, including creamy dal makhani and spiced aloo gobi. The service is friendly and efficient, and the setting is upscale and exotic. The winner of our Best of Denver 2013 Best Indian Restaurant award -- and with good reason.