Sitting there with my order number on the table, spicy hot chai or salt lassi in hand, watching the line at this boisterous Indian hotspot’s counter grow until it trickles out the door, down the street and around the corner, I always imagine how amazing it would be if suddenly, everyone examining their menu, arguing over whether to get one order of samosas or two, agonizing between the Goan-style shrimp curry or pork vindaloo, and looking longingly at the gently sweating Thums Up colas stuck in the tub of ice at the counter, would suddenly burst into a vigorous Bollywood dance number, flash mob-style.
This hasn’t happened yet, but there’s still plenty to look at in the colorful kitsch-crammed dining room, a veritable museum of baubles and curiosities collected by chef/owner Troy MacLarty on his Indian travels. MacLarty, a Chez Panisse alum, birthed Bollywood to bring the Southern Indian-style street food he’d come to love while living in Berkeley to vada pav-bereft Portland, and residents responded enthusiastically, queueing up patiently for platters of fried okra, kati rolls, and egg masala.
The bright, cheerful and casual restaurant (counter service only and bus your own bhel puri plate) attracts a fascinating cross-section of diners—aloo tikki-loving locals, gastrotourists drawn by the complimentary media (like the Oregonian’s Rising Star 2013 award), and members of the city’s Indian-American population seeking the flavors and dishes that remind them of home. The steady hum means it’s just the place to bring adventurous little eaters, and if they act up, although bribery is never (sometimes/usually) the answer, remind them that if they hold it together long enough for you to finish your papri chaat and pint of Kingfisher in peace, there’s a trip to neighboring Salt & Straw ice cream shop in order.
Executive Chef: Troy MacLarty
Owner: Troy MacLarty
Atmosphere: Technicolor, tchotchke-lined space with a fun feel and quick pace; counter service adds to the casual feel, but the food is carefully conceived, fresh and delicious
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk tables
Best Seat: They're all fine but I like to sit at one of the tables in the front window, facing the dining room, there's so much to watch
Noise Level: Boisterous
Dress Code: Casual
Bring the Kids: Yes
Bathrooms: Back of the restaurant
Parking: Street parking is free and can be challenging to find right out front, but head up a side street into the residential neighborhood and you'll find a spot
Cocktails: Pimm's Cup, Gin & Tonic and The Don ($7-$8)
Beer: 7 beers and hard ciders ($2.50-$4.25), Kingfisher on tap $4
Wine: Yes, rotating wines listed on the specials board at the register
Teetotalers: Sweet, salt and mango lassis, ginger-lime soda, Thum's Up, Limca, Diet Coke, Coca Cola
Ideal Meal: Papri chaat, vada pav, kati roll, aloo tikki, goan-style shrimp
Vegetarian Friendly: Yes
Good for the following occasions: Lunch With Friends, Date Night, Family Dinner, Cheap Eats
Reservations: No, and the lines can be long and since it's counter service you'll have to find your own seat; therefore, go early or go relaxed