Shri Balaji Bhavan, maybe the best casual restaurant in Houston

Where do you go when there are seven people and you want something fast and delicious? Nowhere beats Shri Balaji Bhavan. Crunch, flavor, creamy chickpeas, aromatic coconut rice, decadent mango lassi, puffy pooris.

There will be a line, so you should grab a menu from the front so you’ll be ready when it’s your time to order. There are paper menus and you could bring one home and look up the dishes at your leisure for the next visit. But this time, go for a variety. A lot of the food is based more on Indian street food, chaats, than regular meal food, though this is plenty filling and healthy, all vegetarian. I’d say skip the safe thali with all its little portions and go for the crunch of dosas, samosas, pooris,

We ordered about 10 different things, which came at random times, a plate or two at a time. Danny got us silverware from the counter, metal cups, and a pitcher of water. The first two dishes came out in a couple of minutes, and were inhaled, not a wise form of eating this spicy, crunchy, wonderful food. Philip later told me he wasn’t sure there would be enough and he was starving, therefore the speed. But the dishes kept coming, with delightful speed and surprise. Apparently you’re supposed to fill those pooris with what they come with, including the totally liquid chili water.

At first we didn’t have enough plates since we were sharing everything, but we just divided up the metal plates as they came, and soon enough had plenty. We started to slow down a little, with everyone full. The nature of the heat we discussed. Somehow it was more of a slow burn than the sharp knives of good Mexican food.

Finally the dosas arrived, not so spicy, with crunch, and creamy potato filling, delicious sambar, strong with coriander seeds. The four orders seemed far more than we could eat, but the boys tucked in and demolished them. Just as we finished, another three dishes arrived. Oh, no! But, not to worry, they were not ours, and swiped away before we could sully them when we told the friendly food deliverer.

If it weren’t for the drive, it would be hard not to eat every meal here! The Indians I know all live in Sugarland, so it is a drive for them too. Otherwise the line might be even longer at this delicious place, Danny’s favorite.


Samosa chaat,with a little coconut rice on the side, impossible to photograph before the family dug in!


We had two of these, so I could take a photo before they were demolished, called puri chole, or something like that.


Ragatta patty, in a rich green pea gravy, crunch from onions and a few noodles.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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