Although the best chaat shops in the Bay Area are in the South Bay, San Francisco has several long-standing favorites among Indian and Pakistani eateries, with an infusion of modern and premium options in recent years. There’s now a plethora of street food, Indian food trucks in san Francisco tasting menus, bizarre mash-ups like tikka masala burritos, and traditional curry establishments. This article will show you the most popular Indian street food in San Francisco and where to find them.
What Is The Most Popular Indian Street Food In San Francisco?
Whether it’s a hot dog or a pani puri, street food is popular all around the world. However, nothing compares to the diversity of Indian fusion food in San Francisco. Indian street food is unique because of its simple yet diverse flavors. It is one of our all-time favorites. Here is some popular Indian street food in San Francisco:
1. Pav Bhaji
Pav bhaji is a common street dish that originated in Maharashtra, India. It is made up of a vegetable curry that is usually served with pav, a soft bread roll. The dish was created in the 1850s by street vendors as a late-night dinner using all of the day’s leftover veggies, which were then mashed and blended with spices and ghee butter.
The basic pav bhaji can be made in a variety of ways, with cheese, paneer, mushrooms, plantains, and even dried fruits put into the savory curry mix.
Chaat refers to a wide range of Indian street foods, Indian snacks, and small meals that are typically flavored with salty, spicy, sweet, and sour characteristics. The word chaat comes from the Hindi verb chaatna, which means “to lick,” presumably referring to the meals’ finger-licking deliciousness. Chaats are often tiny plates that can be eaten alone as a snack or paired with other meals to make a larger meal. Chaat can be found at several restaurants across San Francisco, selling a variety of foods ranging from stuffed bread to deep-fried pastries with complementing dipping sauces.
Appam is a traditional Indian bowl-shaped pancake prepared from rice flour and coconut milk batter. Appam is especially popular in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, and Kerala, where it is traditionally tied to the Nasranis, Syrian Christians who bake appam on a stone.
The pancake originated near the southern tip of India, according to Gil Marks, an American food writer, and historian. Although nothing is known about the origins of appam, some assume that it came from Indian Jewish communities. It’s usually served with hot seasonings like coconut milk curry these days.
4. Chana Masala
Chana masala is a zesty chickpea stew that is widely served as a snack, main meal, or breakfast in North India. It is arguably India’s most popular vegetarian food, and can be found at train stations, at work, in school canteens, and at ceremonies and festive occasions in both India and Pakistan.
Chickpeas are cooked in a mixture of spices and herbs, then topped with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and eaten with rice or Indian flatbreads like roti or naan. Due to the popularity of chana masala, regional variations exist, such as the Pakistani aloo chole, which is cooked with chickpeas and potatoes.
Paratha is a sort of Indian bread that is often eaten for breakfast and is golden-brown, flaky, and layered. The term is derived from a combination of the words parat (cooked) and atta (flour), which refers to the layered, baked dough. It’s made of whole wheat flour and baked in ghee (clarified butter from India), and it comes in round, triangular, square, or heptagonal shapes.
Boiled potatoes, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, chili, paneer, and radish are common fillings for parathas. Pickles, yogurt, homemade chutneys, and meat and veggie curries are sometimes served alongside. Paratha is traditionally served with lassi, a famous yogurt-based beverage in Punjab.
And in case you would wonder what is the most popular Indian food in the world, just click here to know all details!
Where To Find Chaat/ Indian Street Food In San Francisco?
Here are some of the best places to get delicious Indian street food in San Francisco:
1. Chaat Corner
Address: 320 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107, United States
Address: 3111 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110, United States
What began as one of the renowned San Francisco food trucks, DUM (whose chicken biryani is legendary), eventually moved to a permanent site on 24th Street and took on the name Ritu (Hindi for seasons). Executive chef Rupam Bhagat reflects his Mumbai roots, and biryani is still a standout, but don’t miss California innovations like kale chaat (with yogurt, tamarind, and “Mumbai trail mix”) or superb kebabs.
Address: 3501 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110, United States
Tilak Gurung has managed to buck the trend for Bay Area chefs. He built his restaurant at the top of Mission after cooking for huge tech cafeterias, including Apple and Dropbox (where he claims he served Justin Timberlake and Singapore’s prime minister, in that order). He’s not only delivering delicious curries and tandoori to Bernal Heights, but he’s also serving Indian dishes like Dahi puri chaat, the crispy street snack stuffed with yogurt, tamarind, mint, and sprouts.
4. Curry Leaf
Address: 943 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133, United States
Russian Hill’s Curry Leaf is a neighborhood favorite. It’s a great place to find cheap Indian street food in San Francisco. Curry Leaf is an Indian and Pakistani restaurant with a large tandoori grill with halal meats on the menu. Beef, lamb, and chicken kebabs, as well as lamb chops and chicken legs, are all examples. The bengan bharta, or mashed eggplant, cooked in a garlicky tomato sauce, is the chef’s favorite.
5. Viva Goa
Address: 2420 Lombard St, San Francisco, CA 94123, United States
Viva Goa is Marina’s favorite Indian takeaway joint, serving everything from the curries, tandoori, and naan the residents could want. The restaurant specializes in Goan cuisine, which is heavily inspired by Portugal, which dominated the region for 450 years, and features a lot of seafood, coconut, and kokum. The most popular meal in the region is vindaloo (hot red curry), which is served first, followed by prawn curry.
6. Pakwan Indian Restaurant
Address: 501 O’Farrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102, United States
The Pakwan is a great option for a night out in the Tenderloin, but these days it’s just as gratifying to have the food delivered to your door. You can also visit the restaurant to enjoy wine and Indian street food in San Francisco. There’s plenty of leftover biryani for lunch the next day, thanks to the huge quantities.
7. Curry Up Now
Address: 659 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, United States
Curry Up Now, a popular food truck, opened up shop on Valencia, serving Instagram-friendly twists on classics like tikka masala burritos, sweet potato “sexy fries,” and “naughty naan” flatbread garnished with cheese, caramelized onions, shaved jalapenos, and tikka masala.
8. Keeva Indian Kitchen
Address: 908 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118, United States
The lovely couple Ajeet and Rita Mehta opened this neighborhood gem on Clement Street. They serve American favorites like butter chicken and saag paneer, but regulars love the goat dishes, stir-fried okra, and bang bang egg curry, which has a crispy boiled egg that has been fried and then sunk into a tomato and onion sauce.
Address: 333 Brannan St #150, San Francisco, CA 94107, United States
Rooh delivers modern Indian food in a refined atmosphere, as one could expect from India’s Good Times Restaurants chain of restaurants. The company’s initial outlet in the United States was in SoMa, and they now have a second site in Palo Alto, keeping the innovative cocktails and rich curries coming for the techie elite. From buttery, golden saffron brioche to shiny, bone-marrow-filled short ribs, you can expect to be wowed.
10. Udupi Palace
Address: 1007 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110, United States
This vegetarian South Indian restaurant in the Mission ticks all the boxes. With an extensive menu made up of authentic Indian street food like giant masala dosas, spicy curries, and sweet chutneys abound, all without the meat. The best part is that they will keep you satiated without breaking the bank.
11. Spice of America
Address: 1655 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103, United States
This quiet Market Street eatery has been labeled “San Francisco’s most fascinating Indian restaurant,” and it delivers a diverse menu of Indian cuisine with a few Nepali specialties thrown in for good measure. Entrees like grilled prawns in Indo-Chinese Schezwan sauce and Northwest salmon prepared in a coconut and green mango curry aren’t your typical fare.
Address: 1275 Minnesota St, San Francisco, CA 94107, United States
At this humorous restaurant in the Dogpatch’s Minnesota Street Project gallery space, Heena Patel, a graduate of SF’s food incubator La Cocina, channels flavors from her native Gujarat. In 2019, she earned the Eater Award for Restaurant of the Year for her regional, vegetarian, and personal meals. Since it reopened in the summer of 2021, Patel has removed the meat from the menu, which takes guests across four cities in western India.