Do you love that explosion of spiciness from Indian curries, saag and tandoori chicken, but are those memories of your last elephant ride still haunting your dreams? Then let On the Menu show you how to get an authentic and delicious Indian experience while avoiding an adventure in the Temple of Doom with these local Santa Barbara restaurants.

All or Nothing

All India Cafe
431 State St.
(805) 882-1000
Price: $10 – 20

Treat your taste buds to all the delights that India has to offer by stopping by the All India Cafe. Manager Madav Gurunz said the restaurant does not shy away from mixing up your dinner with dishes from various regions of India.

“You will get all-over Indian,” Gurunz said. “Not just northern or southern.”

Gurunz also said the Lamb Saag is one of the establishment’s best dishes and a customer favorite. The meal consists of lamb curry cooked in spinach. The restaurant boasts a fresh and all-natural selection of ingredients that adds to both the quality and taste of its dishes.

“Our food is very authentic and all-natural,” Gurunz said. “We don’t use any coloring in our food.”

The restaurant offers a lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day. It includes an assortment of 18 different items with naan, a traditional flat bread. The meal is all-you-can-eat for only $8.95. For those of you sporting an Axxess card, you can buy one entree and get the second free when you use the card.

The All India Cafe is open to give your palette the maharaja treatment everyday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The Taj Mahal of Tastes

The Taj Cafe
905 State St.
(805) 564-8280
Price: $10 – 20

Nestled in the wall of shops in downtown Santa Barbara is a jewel of Indian cuisine, the Taj Cafe. The establishment’s atmosphere of Indian music and art adds to the cultural experience when you enjoy one of its savory samplings of flavor.

The food is both authentic and delicious. Server Masky Santana said a customer favorite is the Chicken Tikka Masala, which is made with chicken, onion puree, tomatoes and a cream sauce.

For those who prefer a vegetarian choice, the eatery can provide numerous vegetarian substitutions in its meals. The chefs also accommodate vegetarians by cooking the meat and vegetables in different pans.

Santana also said the eatery can provide for various tastes by making any meal with various levels of hotness.

“We have a range of spiciness from mild to hot,” Santana said.

Students can enjoy a special buy-one-get-one-half-off discount when they use a Taj Cafe coupon.

The Taj Cafe is open to transport you to another world of flavor Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Spice Up Your Life

Spice Avenue
1027 State St.
(805) 965-6004
Price: Under $10

Past the cozy covered patio, the aromas of delicious Indian cuisine waft onto State Street from family-run restaurant Spice Avenue.

Among its numerous menu selections, the restaurant specializes in South Indian curries. These tasty dishes are on the spicier side, and are made with roasted spices and coconut milk. Manager Sunny Pujji said a customer favorite and a great compliment to almost any of the eatery’s dishes is its Peshwari bread. It is made with dry fruits and nuts.

“It’s sweet,” Pujji said. “But it goes really well with the spicier stuff. It’s an interesting combination.”

Pujji also said the Tandoori Mix Grill is a delicious option. It consists of an assortment of meats made in the tandoori clay oven, including Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka, Boti Kebab and Sheekh Kebab.

The restaurant is known for its reasonable prices and affordability, especially for students. Two of its greatest deals are its lunch buffet everyday for $7.95 and a dinner buffet every Wednesday for $12.95. Both include appetizers, salad bar, rice, fried vegetables, non-vegetarian entrees and plain or garlic naan bread. The establishment also provides a large selection of vegetarian options.

Spice Avenue is open to add that extra dash of spice to your day Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5:30 to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Flavor of Love

Flavor of India
3026 State St.
(805) 682-6561
Price: $10 – 20

Take a drive down State Street away from the hustle and bustle of downtown and you will find the delicious aromas and tastes of the Flavor of India. Manager Rajiander Josan said the Lamb Korama is a sure palette pleaser. The dish consists of lamb, traditional spices, saffron, cream, nuts and raisins.

For a vegetarian delight check out the Vegetarian Saag which includes spinach, herbs, spices, potatoes and fresh cauliflower.

“Most people don’t like cauliflower,” Josan said. “But they like the way we cook it.”

The restaurant caters to guests, offering meat preferences and spiciness levels for each meal.

“Most people are scared because they think Indian food is spicy,” Josan said. “But it is not the case here. We can make anything mild, medium or spicy.”

The eatery also provides an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet everyday for $7.95.

Josan said the restaurant has been an award-winning Santa Barbara establishment for over 11 years, with a long-standing reputation of excellent food and service.

“Anyone can make good food for one or two days,” Josan said. “But our service and our food are consistently good.”

To see a full menu, check out its Web site at Flavor of India is open to flavor your life Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday from 5:30 pm. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., and is closed on Sundays.

With all of these delectable delights to choose from, you have no excuse not to take a magic carpet ride to State Street and indulge in the wonders of India. After enjoying these satisfying treats once, Bengal tigers will not be able to keep you away from these Santa Barbara restaurants.