You might be used to enjoying a leisurely formal Indian dinner, but the city’s multitude of dining options has taken Portland Indian food to new and interesting places all across town. Large menus with meat, veggie and vegan options; the portability of curries and samosas; and the indisputable power of naan bread go a long way in refilling your cozy meter after a rainy Portland day.
There are a plethora of sit-down restaurants, but an increasingly popular dining option is the Indian food truck (or “food cart,” as we call them in Portland), as well as takeout kitchens. Across America, takeout kitchens, ghost kitchens, cloud kitchens or whatever you prefer calling them, are essentially small food businesses that are takeout and delivery only. In Portland, many of these takeout kitchens exist in food halls and offer indoor and outdoor food-court-style seating. From food cart pods and food trucks to takeout kitchens in less-visited East Portland, Indian food in Portland is plentiful, diverse and, most importantly, delicious.
I’ve gone far and wide looking for lesser-known Indian eateries to catch your fancy and named my favorite dishes at each of them. I’ve ranked them from very best to so dang good, and if you notice that most of these are in East Portland, it’s not just because that’s where I live.
As a local, my big secret to finding good food in Portland is to look on the edges of the city. I have two primary theories behind this phenomenon. First, the majority of people in Portland live on the east side, so that’s where the customers are. Second, the city is small and easy enough to traverse that most folks will happily drive a few extra minutes for good, affordable food.
Portland’s food scene is so varied that you could eat out three meals daily for years and never repeat a dish. The wealth of diversity, quality and commitment we have in our Indian food carts alone is incalculable. The carts listed here all have something special and unique about them, but they’re just five options of many. I tried to focus on carts and kitchens that get a little less attention than some of the shining stars of the Portland Indian food scene. I looked for newer or out-of-the-way carts or dishes. My only exception is Flavours of India because it would be a crime against takeout if I didn’t talk about their tikka masala.
Flavours of India
Ranking: The Very Best
One of the two takeout kitchens in this article, Flavours of India, is the farthest from the city center but the crown jewel of Rockwood Market Hall, a food hall with a variety of food and shopping spots that opened in 2022. But there’s a reason it’s top of the list. For one thing, this place has hands-down the fastest service, despite drawing a constant crowd, even on rainy nights.
There’s nothing they don’t do well. What used to be my go-to Indian dish, chicken tikka masala, has become something I only eat here. The warm base note of the masala spices lingers in the mouth and builds throughout the dish, making every bite better than the one before it. Large chunks of chicken without fat or gristle pack an umami punch while the bright acid notes of the tomato shine throughout.
This is also my top spot for garlic naan. Theirs is thin and soft, but crispy at the points where it’s bubbled up in the oven, and has just the right amount of garlic and butter. Enjoy your lunch or dinner inside the spacious hall illuminated by wide, airy skylights. After you’ve had your fill, kids and kids at heart can enjoy the playground and splash pad just outside.
Dhaba Indian Kitchen
Ranking: Mouth Watering Aroma
A number of reviews for Dhaba Indian Kitchen, located at The Yard at Montavilla, say that you can smell it before you see it, which is true. The aroma of this cart is an excellent prelude to the food they make inside. On a recent visit, the sky was gray and the wind blew through my sweater when I asked the chef for aloo gobi, a comfort food people sometimes sleep on because of its simple ingredients. It’s a humble dish of potatoes and cauliflower, but each Indian chef has their own unique riff on this ubiquitously popular vegetarian meal.
At Dhaba, the aloo gobi is more of a stew rather than a curry or the stir-fried forms the dish can take, and pairs very well with the jasmine rice they serve alongside it. The cauliflower is expertly cooked but still slightly crunchy without being dry. The potato, soft yet robust, takes on the flavor of the savory cumin and fennel-forward broth it’s stewed in. There’s a slight sweetness that gets caught up with the rice and carries the chili and other spices along with it, making every bite feel like a warm hug. The exact right break on a busy, blustery day.
Best Taste of India
Ranking: Supersize Samosa King
The Best Taste of India cart has been a constant in the back of the Springwater Cart Park food cart pod for years. The fatherly chef serves large portions of handmade Indian staples and wild cards, with over 60 items on the menu seven days a week.
The nearly softball-sized samosas are a meal unto themselves. They deliver both volume and quality with a crispy, flaky crust and the perfect amount of potato mash and peas inside. This is an amazing snack to take on a journey up nearby Mount Tabor or to the Columbia River Gorge.
On my latest trip, I also got lamb korma on the recommendation of several reviews and was extremely pleased with my choice. The lamb is tender and falls apart in the mouth, and the korma is creamy and packed with flavor. I scooped it up with delicate pieces of garlic naan and, thanks to the generous portions, had more than enough for dinner later.
Ranking: A Fun Dahl-iance
Despite the name, Tikkalicious is not my ideal spot for tikka masala. This takeout kitchen, however, has an amazing dal makhani, a North Indian specialty originating from New Delhi. This creamy lentil stew is flawlessly balanced. The lentils are tender, cooked just right to where they aren’t fully incorporated, but provide an enticing texture. A toasty base note carries the cream and naturally complements the dish’s signature earthiness. This truly elevated and complex legume moment filled me up even as it left me wanting more.
You can find over 20 other rotating takeout kitchens inside Grand Ave Food Company specializing in everything from gluten-free eats to boba tea. Seating is limited to the outdoors via four permanent picnic tables.
Balaji Indian Cuisine
Ranking: So Dang Good
Balaji Indian Cuisine is the only westside cart on this list, located within the Third Avenue Food Cart Pod. They (in my humble opinion) make the fluffiest rice and the kind of naan that tastes even better as it cools. I love their chicken curry, which is indulgently fatty and rich. Their vegetable korma is creamy and brimming with veggies, and their tomato-based aloo gobi and paneer tikka masala are well-made reliable classics.
There’s a reason this cart is open until 10 p.m.; it’s a smart midway spot on a bar hop, as well as an ideal lunch or brunch for the morning after. It’s also not too greasy and would make a great mid-week lunch.
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