Curry up and get in line at Tandoor India

When it comes to restaurants with an all-you-can-eat sign on the front door, I am, as I recently saw on a teenager’s shirt, a “buffet molester.” For cheap, yet savory Indian food, Tandoor India is a must for those who think four trips to the buffet line are never enough.

Less than a block from the Market-Frankford
40th Street subway stop, Tandoor India is somewhat hidden between Chestnut and Walnut
streets near University of Pennsylvania’s campus and The Bridge theater complex. The interior won’t be garnering special awards anytime soon, but the restaurant’s decor
is authentic Indian and homey.

The restaurant is a tight squeeze, which gives you all the more reason to examine the exquisite paintings and mirrors as you squeeze into your table. Though Tandoor isn’t spacious, if you’re willing to eat lunch a little late or dinner a few hours early, you should be seated fairly quickly.

I’d been to Tandoor twice before for its fantastic buffets, so this time I decided to order take-out since it was beginning to get crowded at 5:30 p.m. No matter what you order, no meal here is complete without raita and naan. Most entrees come with raita, a thick and cooling cucumber
yogurt made fresh.

Though you can specify how spicy you would like your sauces and meats to be, raita helps to cut the edge from the blistering entrees, like the beef vindaloo.

Naan is a familiar flatbread that looks a bit like pita, cooked in their clay “tandoor” oven used to cook more Indian food. Use the naan like you would a tortilla or biscuit – mopping up sauce and scooping every last bit of food. The restaurant offers regular naan and variations like ones stuffed with raisins or garlic.

That night, I decided to leave my comfort zone of Indian entrees (lamb biryani, made with saffron and dried fruit) and go for the tikka masala – chicken, garlic, spices and tomatoes. I had an intuition that later I’d be sitting and watching MTV reruns still hungry, so I ordered dessert as well.

The badam kheer is a creamy Indian rice pudding with plenty of raisins and costs about $2.50. By the time I walked to the Fresh Grocer a block away and back to Tandoor, my food was waiting. Considering
I’m a ridiculously fast walker, I was pretty impressed.When I finally made it home, I was free to enjoy what I can now say has become my new favorite Indian entree.

Even after a nuke in the microwave, the chicken was unbelievably moist all the way down to its garlic and mystery-spiced core. The meal set me back a mere $14 or so, and it was much better than any TGI Friday’s special for the same price.

Patrons were filling up the warm restaurant
as I left. It’s a great place for groups, too. The only setbacks – if you come at a slow time, the buffet items can get a little tired-looking. This is no problem during the busy dinner hour, since food is replaced as rapidly as it disappears.

Sampling the buffet gives you a taste of spicy, mild and fresh items, so if you’re new to Indian cuisine, ordering the buffet is a great way to start familiarizing yourself with signature flavors.

Either way, if you’re an old foodie like me, it’s hard to be bored or disappointed at a restaurant as flavorful as Tandoor.

Brianna Barry can be reached at

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