It’s the unofficial favorite fast food of India, a quick cuisine of street bites, snacks, fritters and other savory treats to eat on the go. Chaat isn’t meant to be fancy. It’s almost all vegetarian, and it often repurposes other foods in surprising ways, but it’s the ultimate in big-flavor fast food, from stuffed flatbreads and incomparable veggie burgers to samosa sandwiches and other strokes of fusion genius.
Best of all, chaat is all around Dallas, and a filling meal often costs as little as $4.
This guide isn’t meant to be a complete listing of all the chaat in North Texas. Instead, we’ve highlighted some of the best dishes from four terrific restaurants in Dallas and Irving. They all have other, equally scrumptious snacks to order, but this is a starting point, an inspiration to go exploring. Go forth, now, and chow down on some of the best bargain food in Dallas.
Chowpatty is a major public beach in Mumbai, and with swimming risky because of heavily polluted waters, the beach is most famous for its street carts serving up chaat. Bombay Chowpatty in northern Irving gets its name from that beach and its iconic savory snacks. The beach appears as a wall-sized poster, and the restaurant has an outdoorsy feel, thanks to bright sunlight, iconic Bollywood movie posters and a wide-open floor plan. The chefs work at a large island in the middle, right behind the ordering counter. Stop by the sides for napkins or plastic utensils.
Lunch platters here are reliably superb, like the chole puri platter ($8), with a spicy chickpea curry and greasy-in-a-good-way frybread, or, even better, the pav bhaji platter ($8.50). The biggest compartment is a well-spiced, but only somewhat spicy, mash of vegetables. Try a spoonful, sure, but the point of pav bhaji is to build a sandwich with little dinner rolls that have been seasoned and griddled. Few fast-food meals are more satisfying, especially since the lunch platters all come with good rice, free tea and dessert.
Bombay Chowpatty also serves what might be the weirdest fusion food in metro Dallas: the pizza dosa ($7.50). It’s a dosa filled with sweet tomato sauce, red onions, green bell peppers, cheese and a very liberal dusting of oregano. The result is admittedly pretty odd, especially since the tomato sauce tastes like supermarket Boboli-brand stuff. It’s best and most intriguing if you dip the dosa in one of the accompanying chutneys.
825 W. Royal Lane, Irving. bombaychowpattyirving.com, 972-677-7658. Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., 4:30 – 9:30 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., 4:30 – 10 p.m.; Sat. 12 – 10 p.m.; Sun. 12 – 9:30 p.m.
India Chaat Café
In Far North Dallas, sharing a strip mall with the refined French bistro Cadot, India Chaat Café is a fast food and takeout spot that projects peppy optimism. The bright colors, TV tuned to an Indian music video channel and simple menu all suggest the kind of comfort food in which this restaurant specializes.
The restaurant’s specialty, while not technically a chaat, is indisputably delicious: “Desi-style” pizzas with Indian toppings. A small chili paneer pizza ($8) boasts a thin crust that stays perfectly crisp all the way to the center, topped with bell peppers, small cubes of paneer, a little bit of oregano and a lot of spice. This is some of the best, and unlikeliest, pizza in North Dallas.
18101 Preston Road. indiachaatcafedallas.com, 972-381-0003. Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.