It’s not often that have the opportunity, or feel compelled, to post about a restaurant that’s within walking distance to a convention center. In fact, I’m usually forced to survive on bad food and florescent lighting when I’m attending these meetings. However, in San Francisco, it’s worth getting out and walking one short block to Chaat Cafe for freshly made Indian food.
The menu features several vegetarian curries, sides, pakoras, stuffed naans and unique salads that will satisfy any vegetarian on the road. After you order at the front, grab your silverware, water and chutneys and head for a table. Put your number up on the table stand and your made-to-order meal will arrive shortly. You can also sit at the bar and watch your meal being prepared. I was fascinated at how quickly and efficiently the naan was made in the tandoori oven.
During lunch you can order your dish a la cart which means you have a choice of basmati rice or naan as a side dish. Or, you can order a complete meal for only a few dollars more. With the meal, you receive both rice and naan plus the vegetable of the day and dal (lentils).
I first ordered the papri chaat. The papri chaat is served in a bowl and has, according to the menu, home made chips, lentil dumplings, garbanzo beans, potatoes, yogurt, chutneys and spices. It was a delicious combination of flavors and textures. I ate the entire bowl not realizing how much more food there was to come.
My saag paneer (spinach and cheese) was brought to the table piping hot. In fact, I had to let it cool down a little bit before I could dig in. That wait was pure torture because everything smelled so good. Once it cooled down, I was able to truly enjoy what made-to-order Indian food tastes like. It was so flavorful and had the perfect spiciness. The vegetable of the day was aloo mutter – a pea and potato dish – that was also fresh and delicious. The dal was hot, spicy and was best eaten by using the naan to scoop it up.
I found out later that this restaurant is actually a chain with locations throughout California and Texas. Based on the decor, the food and the feel of the restaurant, I never would have guessed it was that it wasn’t a family owned one location restaurant. When you come in, you may face a line, but it moves quickly. The line just proves how good the food really is. It’s worth the short wait and the short walk from the Moscone convention center.