At first glance, Irving can look like Any Suburb, USA — but a surging Asian Indian population adds a plethora of Indian restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters and churches. North Texas has had a strong Asian Indian presence for several decades, but the population skyrocketed from 2000 to 2010. Since then, a particularly strong presence in West Irving has been spreading across the suburb.
This is a wonderful thing, infusing Irving with a great deal of culture that stands in stark contrast to the soulless chain establishments that make so many outlying American cities indistinguishable from one another. A trip to Irving is a great way to escape the city — and it doesn’t require an interminable drive or a major dent in your wallet. Here are some of the best places to visit:
Taj Chaat House
1057 W. Rochelle Road, Irving; 214-596-1133
This is one of the best-known Indian restaurants in Irving and it’s a great place to start — sometimes it's best to just jump right in and enjoy the culture shock. This is one of those times. Taj Chaat House is disarming, situated in a shopping plaza that looks sterile until you walk through this restaurant's door. This is all vegetarian fare; fast food, essentially, the kind of snacks you would find in roadside food carts in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. It'll be crowded but the counter service line moves quickly. If the menu seems overwhelming, start with a Bombay masala dosa. It’s basically a crêpe filled with potato and cheese.
1009 W. Rochelle Road, Irving; 972-570-2504
This grocery store includes a wonderful farmers market. Some of the produce is rare or hard to find, like breadfruit. There are aisles of exotic spices, inexpensive produce, delightful house-made Indian desserts and a pickle bar. The only thing you won't find is a meat department. At Patel Brothers, there are quite a few products you'd normally expect to find at Whole Foods or Central Market but at a fraction of the cost. Some of the most notable are English items like good chocolate and tea.
Rangoli Sweets & Snacks
2801 N. MacArthur Blvd., Suite A, Irving; 972-594-8100
If you want something authentic, this spot is hard to beat — it's an awesome hole-in-the-wall and the food is very fresh. They have some colorful sweets you may not have tried before. Jalabi looks like a pretzel and tastes like sugar, anjeer rolls are made of cashews and figs, and peda is a soft treat with pistachios, cardamom seeds and saffron. Don't let the name mislead you — Rangoli also has great lunch and dinner, with authentic Gujarati recipes served on tea leaf bowls and plates. You won't find that anywhere else.
Biryani Kabab Factory
3636 N. Beltline Road; 972-514-1792
Do you need to know that your meat came from an animal that was killed by hand after being blessed by the slaughter man? You have come to the right place, my friend. This is a great traditional halal restaurant. Chicken biryani is a classic Indian dish, often served during celebrations, and it is a great choice here. Imagine a mountain of basmati rice full of a whole galaxy of spices and moist marinated meat, bones included, with an incredible yogurt sauce on the side. This is a tasty dish and they give you enough for three or four meals.
Everest Indian Himalayan Restaurant and Grill
3310 W. Rochelle Road; 972-255-1717
This taste of Nepali and Indian cuisine is another highlight. The decor is cultural and historic, but the environment is very casual and cozy. Everything about this place is surprising, but perfectly executed. There are limes in the water instead of lemons, and that is by no means a bad thing. The masala chai has a perfect taste, not unsweetened but not quite sweet. Aloo Gobi is a spiced potato and cauliflower curry dish you will find on the menu of almost any Indian restaurant, but this rendition is expertly spiced and slow-cooked to perfection. The dish also comes with the choice of rice or naan, so it is nice to skip the rice and not have to pay for the bread. And the dumplings they call chicken steam momo! Dumplings are popular appetizers in some parts of India and these are as good as anything you will find in an authentic Chinese restaurant.
2521 W. Airport Freeway; 972-255-5941
More along the lines of a bazaar, India Imports is a market full of spices, veggies, bags of rice and produce. They also have an incredible selection of refreshments in a cooler similar to what you would find at a gas station, but you can get a mango milkshake in a can or a bottle of salted mint lassi. There is also a cafe attached, as well as a jewelry store and a clothing store. There is even a pray room.
825 W. Royal Lane, Suite 130; 972-677-7658
This is sensational Indian street food with quick counter service in a very unique setting. Taking its name from a famous beach, this is essentially a conglomerate of the different types of food stalls you would find near the shore. The kitchen is in the center of the room and surrounded by tables and chairs so you can watch the food being prepared. The restaurant has a modern design, with spectacular photographs of Indian street culture on the walls. You can order a fresh juice, ice cream or shaved ice. The corn pakora is an irresistible, spicy appetizer and you should definitely try the butter pav bhaji, a spicy mixed vegetable curry served with buttered bread buns.