The words "Desi-style pizza" beckoned me with a neon glow from the front window of India Chaat Café, a small, brightly lit restaurant tucked into a strip mall at Preston and Frankford. I walked in expecting Americanized, watered-down food, or maybe the Bollywood version of Pizza Hut, and was surprised to find I was the only non-Indian person dining in -- almost always a good sign.
The menu is huge, with all the usual pakoras, samosas, biryanis and curries, but that inescapable sense of curiosity that resides deep within me (that very same one that makes me eat shit like habanero doughnuts) obliged me to try the dish that drew me in the door, so I ordered vegetable pakoras and a chicken tikka masala pizza.
But you know what? It wasn't half bad. The crust was thin and crisp around the edges -- more Totinos than Neopolitan, but well-executed nonetheless -- and the cheese was perfectly gooey and elastic. Small cubes of crimson-stained chicken provided only a tease of the warm Indian spices my palate craved, but I doused it in the tiny cup of deep red chili sauce that accompanied my pakoras and ate the whole damn thing. At $6.99 for a 10-inch pizza it was a cheap, filling lunch.
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I'm not necessarily recommending you run out and order one tomorrow, but India Chaat Café is certainly a worthy destination for fast-casual Indian if you're in the area. I'll be back to try the huge, fluffy naan stuffed with various meat fillings that most of the other patrons seemed to be enjoying, and perhaps a dish that's a bit more authentic -- but in a world where Doritos Locos tacos and cream cheese-laden sushi rolls are all the rage, the existence of chicken tikka masala pizza seems only fitting.