Neither my wife nor I know how our love affair with Indian food began, but fortunately, we both have bitten by the Indian food "bug" and have been fanciers of this interesting cuisine for many years.
The extent to which Indian immigration has flourished in western Pennsylvania is reflected in the number of restaurants offering this great cuisine which have sprung up here. Who could have imagined just a few years ago that three Indian restaurants could co-exist within about a third of a mile from each other on Banksville Road (Namaste at Kuhn's Supermarket Banksville Plaza, Billu's Indian Grill at the Days Inn and The Mintt one strip shopping area down the road from Namaste)?
I wish I could say that one of these restaurants is a favorite, but that is not the case. Namaste is run by a friendly husband and wife couple and is the most reasonably priced, but the buffet is small, offering just a few items. I find the food at The Mintt to often be too spicy. The atmosphere at Billu's is comfortable and the restaurant attractive, but the food disappointing. For Indian food that my wife and I truly love, we travel outside of the South Hills.
All of the restaurants mentioned in this essay offer daily lunch buffets and some offer dinner buffets on select evenings. All of the lunch buffets are priced below $10.00, a bargain. One can enjoy reasonably healthy food at these establishments if he or she focuses on vegetable items, which most Indian restaurants offer in abundance. Most of these restaurants are open every day of the year, which is a comfort for those of us who enjoy dining out on holidays. There have been years in which my wife and I enjoyed an Indian lunch buffet on Thanksgiving before proceeding to a dinner feast!
Coriander Indian Grill on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill is owned by Victor Barboza, former longtime manager of India Garden in Oakland. The establishment has been in existence for just over two years. It offers an attractive atmosphere, fine service and delicious food. Although I am eating less meat and poultry today for health reasons, I would assert that Coriander offers one of the most delicious and succulent Chicken Tandoori dishes in the area. I feel a first allegiance to this Indian restaurant as my relationship with the owner extends more than ten years. Victor has gone out of his way to welcome me and my wife and to extend every courtesy to us, even offering at his marvelous buffet the types of items that he knows we enjoy. He aims to please. I want him to succeed after many years of toiling as a most hard-working manager at India Garden.
India Garden has long been a popular mainstay on Atwood Street in Oakland. Service is generally friendly and the owner, who is often present, is warm and gracious. My favorite dish is breaded cauliflower and white rice mixed with peas and carrots. My wife loves the spinach dish that is usually available. I wish the restaurant offered more windows and light. It is generally dark.
Taj Mahal on McKnight Road in the North Hills consistently offers the largest selection of buffet dishes and virtually everything is excellent. The service is generally top-notch. The husband and wife owners are not friendly, but that must be overlooked in order enjoy the unique and extensive daily buffet.
I would be a happy Indian food lover if a good Indian restaurant would open in the Upper Saint Clair/Peters Township area, an endeavor which I believe would be successful, given the continuing influx of Indian professionals to the area (and the presence of non-Indian lovers of this fascinating cuisine)!