An endless buffet of spicy and flavorful dishes; something to please any and all—what more could you want? Visit these local restaurants for an expansive lunch buffet or an authentic Indian dinner preparation.
9 S Dubuque St, Iowa City
For the quickest, most filling and satisfying lunch, visit Masala. This cozy, hole-in-the-wall restaurant is always full with a varied blend of patrons ranging from downtown office workers to in-the-know university students. The lunch buffet is no joke and will satisfy any and all of your cravings whether for navratan korma, chicken tikka masala or a mango lassi.
Hit the buffet with a clean plate as many times as you like, but be sure your eyes are not larger than your stomach, as Masala makes a conscious effort to cut back on its overall food waste. Dinner here is a pleasant experience in the heart of downtown Iowa City. Take your time, choose a few items to share across the table and order a Kingfisher Lager to wash it down.
227 E Washington St, Iowa City
If you’re searching for an Indian restaurant that knows how to bring the heat, India Cafe does it right. With origins in Fairfield, Iowa, the restaurant’s second location in downtown Iowa City has been a local favorite since 1994.
The chefs in India Cafe’s kitchen know how to expertly spice their dishes for that perfectly layered and nuanced heat. Passing on the widely used mild/medium/spicy signifiers, India Cafe instead opts for a spicy scale from 1-10 so you get a consistent spice every time you order. Got a little ambitious on that spice scale? Tone it down with a mango shake—the dairy combined with the sweetness of the fruit balances out the heat.
943 25th Ave, Coralville
Haveli’s menu is staggering; topping out at over 100 options, there is almost certainly something for everyone here. The 15 variations alone of naan, chapathi and roti make sure even the bread options are solidly covered. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the multitude of choices, rest easy and order the thali (vegetarian or non-vegetarian). This traditional Indian meal samples all the classics (samosa, pakora, dal, paneer, tikka and kheer) and is served on a silver platter with multiple dishes and bowls, which feels indulgent.
Beyond the delicious food and warming chai tea, the best thing about Haveli Indian is the Bollywood music videos on constant loop. Enjoy your elegantly spiced saag paneer while visually feasting on the elaborately choreographed dance videos; it’s a match made in heaven.
102 B 2nd Ave, Coralville
Neighbor to a hulking Mexican restaurant, Exotic India is humble in structural comparison, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for with authentic Indian fare. The family-run restaurant offers friendly service and a cozy atmosphere.
The lunch buffet is always hot and well-stocked by attentive servers, and the extensive menu hits on just about everything you could want from an Indian joint, creating flavorful dishes for hungry customers. Be sure not to miss the bengan bertha (roasted eggplant with onion, tomatoes, green peas and mild spices), and take advantage of Exotic India’s delivery option on those days when you just can’t even.
Taj Mahal Cuisine of India
3939 Center Point Rd NE, Cedar Rapids
The perfect location for a cozy environment and diverse menu options. Taj Mahal offers a variety of seafood, lamb and chicken dishes either roasted in the traditional tandoor oven, or steeped in rich, spicy curries.
The menu doesn’t only cater to the meat-eater, though. For diners who enjoy lighter fare, try the Bahar-E-Sabaz, or vegetable curries for a winning vegetarian entree. Whether omnivore or carnivore, be sure to end your meal with some mouth-watering mithai. If you’re eager to recreate your meal at home, the Taj Mahal grocer right next door stocks its shelves with imported ingredients so you can give it a go in your own kitchen.
Taste of India
1060 Old Marion Rd NE Unit D, Cedar Rapids
Situated in an unassuming strip mall in Cedar Rapids is Taste of India. The spacious interior offers more than enough seating for both lunch rushes and busy dinner times. Visiting the lunch buffet provides diners with a nice rotating assortment of dishes, and, with plenty of grain options, you can be sure to build your plate just how you like it. While not as expansive as other buffets in the area, the food is well-spiced and nicely balanced between vegetarian and meat options. You’ll find the typical Indian hits and even some less frequently seen items like mushroom matar. Be sure to try the pakoras — Taste of India has figured out the ideal size for easy eating and executes them well without the extra grease.
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Recipe: Aloo Gobi
Recipe developed by Ari Ariel. Serves 4
Aloo Gobi is a classical Indian preparation of cauliflower and potatoes in spices. The vegetables are usually pan-fried, but that makes the whole dish a bit too greasy for my taste. My favorite method is to roast the vegetables before adding them to a pan of spices. This cuts down on the oil and adds a toasty, caramelized flavor to the final dish. Your garlic and ginger should be minced very finely, to the texture of a paste. The easiest way to do this is to grate them on a microplane. Finally, if you don’t like cilantro, substitute parsley or just leave it out.
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 3/4 pound of fingerlings or other small potatoes, cut in half
- 3 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
- 2 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 tbsp. garlic, finely chopped or grated on a microplane
- 1 tbsp. peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated on a microplane
- ¼ tsp. ground turmeric
- ⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper (or ¼ tsp. if you want the dish to be spicier)
- 1 tbsp. garam masala
- ½ cup water
- Juice of ½ a lime
- 4 tbsp. coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
Preheat the oven to 450º
Add the cauliflower to a large bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of salt. Spread the cauliflower out on half of a baking pan.
Add the potatoes to the bowl, toss with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of salt. Then spread the potatoes out on the other half of the baking pan.
Roast the cauliflower and potatoes in the oven. After about 20 minutes check the vegetables; if the cauliflower is brown and cooked through, remove it from the oven. Depending on the size of your potatoes, they may require a bit more time to cook. If need be, place them back in the oven for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. Remove and set aside with the cauliflower.
Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Then add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently to be sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
Add the cauliflower and potatoes to the pan. Then add the turmeric, cayenne pepper and garam masala and stir so that the vegetables are coated evenly with the spices.
Stir in the water. This will create a light sauce with the spices. Cover the pan and cook just until everything is hot and the sauce is slightly thickened.
Remove from the heat, add lime juice and top with the cilantro.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row class=”bb-row bb-button-row”][vc_column][hcode_button button_style=”style3″ hcode_button_preview_image=”style3″ button_type=”large” hcode_column_animation_style=”pulse” button_text=”url:http%3A%2F%2Flittlevillagemag.com%2Fdining|title:Return%20to%20Bread%20%26%20Butter||”][hcode_button button_style=”style3″ hcode_button_preview_image=”style3″ button_type=”large” hcode_column_animation_style=”pulse” button_text=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fissuu.com%2Flittlevillage%2Fdocs%2Fbread-and-butter-2017|title:Bread%20%26%20Butter%20PDF%20Edition||”][hcode_button button_style=”style3″ hcode_button_preview_image=”style3″ button_type=”large” hcode_column_animation_style=”pulse” button_text=”url:http%3A%2F%2Flittlevillagemag.com%2Frestaurants%2F|title:A-Z%20Restaurant%20Index||”][hcode_space margin_setting=”1″ desktop_margin=”margin-three-all”][/vc_column][/vc_row]