Denver's dining scene is making a big comeback — and we're hungering to go out. With so many new ventures and old favorites to visit after more than a year of restaurant shutdowns and restrictions, the choices can be overwhelming. So we're serving up Short Stop, with recommendations for things that should definitely be on your culinary short list. This week, head to Tikka & Grill.
Tikka & Grill
1300 South Broadway
Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
For more info:
Scoop up bites of matter paneer with hot and fresh garlic naan.
For over thirty years, the southeast corner of Broadway and East Louisiana Avenue was home to the original Pasquini's. But in 2016, a fire in the older portion of the restaurant led to years of construction woes. Reopening plans for the Italian eatery were still uncertain when Tikka & Grill signed a lease for the newer portion of the building in the summer of 2020; since then, Pasquini's has officially shuttered for good.
But while Denver lost an old-school Italian joint, it's gained a standout spot for Indian and Nepali food. Tikka & Grill is owned by Peter Sitaula, who also owns Sherpa Grill, which has locations in Greeley and Fort Collins. The spacious room has several televisions and a bar, along with a few tables and a booth in the front. There isn't much in the way of decor, but there's plenty to see on the pages of the menu.
What you're eating:
Bombay bhel, a popular Indian street food.
I got my first taste of Tikka & Grill via a delivery order one snowy night. Looking for comfort food, I wasn't very adventurous, opting for chicken tikka masala ($16) and saag paneer ($14). But while these are two of the most popular Indian dishes in the United States, Tikka & Grill's versions were exemplary, full of fragrant spices and depth.
Delivery is a popular option here. When I made it over for a dine-in experience, delivery drivers were rotating in and out consistently — and for good reason. Much of the food holds up well during travel, including one popular appetizer option: momo ($14 for vegetable and $15 for chicken). These plump dumplings, served with a mint chutney, are one of the best ways to kick off a meal, whether you're dining in or not.
On the other hand, items from the Indian Street Chaat section of the menu are best enjoyed on site, because many of them include crunchy elements. On a server's recommendation, I ordered the Bombay bhel ($7), a tangle of puffed rice, fried vermicelli, chickpeas, diced red onion, green onion and herbs topped with a tangy tamarind sauce and a creamy yogurt sauce. The mix of textures and flavors makes for a supremely satisfying snack that pairs well with a cold beer or a mango lassi.
It's totally okay to order extra naan to take home.
The server also recommended two entrees: matter paneer ($14) and lamb kadai ($18) — though you can get most items with your choice of protein or opt for veggies only, as well as state your preference for spice level.
Like masala, the matter paneer is made with a creamy, tomato-based sauce that is studded with cubes of housemade cheese and peas. An order of garlic cheese naan ($4) is essential for scooping up every bit of the fragrant, garam masala-spiced sauce.
The kaldi, which is made with a blend of tomatoes and bell peppers, leans sweeter. The lamb is quite mild, without the gaminess typical of that protein.
After my meal I was so full, I was unable to eat one more bite of naan (okay, maybe just one more bite). But I was already perusing the menu again, plotting moves for my next visit. Honey chicken curry? According to the menu, "It has won over numerous individuals that thought they didn’t like curry, which incorporates a few of our possessive family individuals!" Sold. Thupka, a Himalayan noodle soup? Yes, please. Shikarni for dessert? Again, the colorful menu language is tempting: "How long has it been since you last tasted paradise? Basically celestial in taste, Shikarni is a staggering variety of custom made yogurt flavored with cinnamon and topped with sliced bananas."
I'll save room for dessert next time.