While most of Long Island's finest Indian restaurants gather around Hicksville, the cuisines they serve range all over the subcontinent, from the tandoori meats of the Punjab to the haleem (meat porridge) of Pakistan (part of Indian until 1947) to the rice biryanis of south-central Hyderabad to the vegetarian street foods of the south. With a growing clientele of discerning Indian and Pakistani Americans, these eateries adhere to very high standards, and the many vegetarian ones among them are a godsend for anyone trying to eat less meat.
Note: Most dishes mentioned are samples of the restaurants’ menus and may not be available at all times. Seasonal changes and dish substitutions are common.
Akbar (2 South St., Garden City): Named for a 16th century gourmand Mughal emperor, this upscale northern Indian restaurant was a pioneer on Long Island and, four decades later, still delivers consistent, high-voltage cooking. Sink into regal rooms decorated with extravagant carpets and chandeliers, and ponder tandoori specialties such as chicken tikka marinated in yogurt with garlic, spiced minced lamb or seekh kebab, that is moist, and grilled lamb chops that are neatly charred. Unlike many northern Indian restaurants, it's the vegetables at Akbar that leave a real mark: baingan dahiwala, eggplant in yogurt with onions, and aloo gobi, the union of potatoes and cauliflower, are delectable. More info: 516-357-8300, theakbar.com
The aloo gobi with cauliflower and potatoes prepared with mixed spices with basmati rice at Akbar in Garden City.
Clay Oven (863 W. Jericho Tpke., Smithtown): With her two Clay Ovens, chef-owner Lubna Habibi takes a modern approach to authentic Indian food. Think tandoori chicken wings, pakoras that play on cheese sticks, lamb meatball curry that will remind you of a Scotch egg, a halal chicken taco. Habibi's latest innovation: the Bombay bowl where you chose your rice (turmeric-tinged, onion pulao or biryani) and top it with your choice of lentils or chickpeas, your choice of meats and relishes. (Other location at 601 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Hauppauge.) More info: clayovenhalal.com
Stuffed eggplant roasted and filled with crumbles of ground lamb meat and topped with peppers, onions and yogurt sauce at Clay Oven in Hauppauge.
Dosa World (355 S. Broadway, Hicksville): It took serious mangoes to open a dosa restaurant less than a quarter-mile up the street from LI's legendary dosa dispensary House of Dosas, but, since 2016, Dosa World has been giving 20-year-old House of Dosas a run for its money. The titular dosas are griddled crepes made with a rice-lentil batter; they vary in size (large to huge), serving style (folded or rolled) and filling (seemingly limitless combinations of vegetables and seasonings). In southern India, they are a popular street food; here you can sit down to fully enjoy their variety. Also on offer: Indian snacks, rice dishes, curries and breads. Everything is vegetarian. More info: 516-390-4444, dosaworldny.com
Masala dosa with a mildly spiced potato filling is served at Dosa World in Hicksville.
House of Dosas
House of Dosas (416 S. Broadway, Hicksville): Going strong since 1999, House of Dosas is the Long Island restaurant that popularized the dosa, that manhole-cover-sized rice-lentil crepe that comes stuffed with scores of savory fillings. If you're overwhelmed with the variety, start with the butter masala dosa, rolled around savory potatoes, and work your way down the list. And don't neglect the thicker, dinner-plate-sized uttapams, seductively spongy, crisp-bottomed rice-lentil pancakes whose fillings are embedded in the tender top surfaces. Other hits at this vegetarian eatery include bhel puri, a popular street snack made with puffed rice, onion and chili, and idly, steamed little medallions made from rice and lentils. More info: 516-938-7517, houseofdosas.com
The vegan aloo bonda appetizer are lentil dumplings stuffed with onion and potato and served with spicy chutneys at the House of Dosas in Hicksville.
Kababjees (495-18 S. Broadway, Hicksville): Kababjees means "Mr. Kebab" in Urdu and, in a cogent encapsulation of Hicksville's culinary history, the address was once occupied by the original Mr. Sausage. You can't lose with any of the Pakistani-style kebabs, either served from the skewer or rolled in flatbread. Don't miss the chicken karahi, an intensely savory -- though not terribly spicy -- dish that takes its name from the cast-iron pot ("karahi") in which it is cooked. The meat-centric eatery also has a gift for spuds: toofani aloo is a spiral-cut potato, stretched out and deep-fried into a crispy Slinky; aloo naan, an exotic take on the potato knish. More info: 516-597-5777, kababjeesny.net
Toofani aloo is served at Kababjees in Hicksville.
Lazzat (3245 Sunrise Hwy., Wantagh): At this warm, family-run eatery, you can glimpse Sudesh Nawaz (chef, owner and mom) in the kitchen while her children run the dining room. A 2018 transplant from North Bellmore (where it first opened in 2003), Lazzat specializes in the cuisine of the Punjab, in the north of India and you won't find better tandoori chicken, a Punjabi specialty, on Long Island. Another highlight is the haleem, a sort of meat porridge made with beef, cracked wheat and lentils and garnished with fresh ginger, lemon and jalapeños. Even though Nawaz is from the meat-eating north, the menu offers scores of meatless options, among them aloo gobhi, a clean and fresh stir-fry of spiced, tender cauliflower; and aloo tikki, savory pancakes of mashed potatoes. More info: 516-826-6060, mylazzat.com
Aloo tikki is served at Lazzat in Wantagh.
Masalah Grill (195 Walt Whitman Rd., Huntington Station): It's easy to miss this tiny jewel box of a Pakistani-Indian restaurant that has grown to be the standard-bearer for the kind of South Asian cuisine one can now demand on Long Island. Opt for a seat instead of takeout in this no-frills spot, the better to appreciate the finesse and flavor of chef-owner Farzana Sohail's cooking. Aromatic rice biryanis come studded with fall-off-the-bone chicken. Tender hunks of bone-in goat arrive bobbing in creamy korma, a complex curry of coconut milk, cashews and almonds. Fragrant vegetables -- spinach, eggplant, cauliflower -- are a wonderful complement to the meat-centric menu. More info: 631-271-1700, masalahgrill.com
Masalah Grill in Huntington offers biryani, a colorful rice dish served in a metal pot topped with fried onion curls and is served with a yogurt sauce. Lamb, Beef or chicken cooked in masala accompany the classic dish.
Mithaas (217 Bethpage Rd., Hicksville): The first Long Island location of a fast-casual Indian chain based in New Jersey can be a playful romp through the crispiest, crunchiest and smokiest tart-sour-spicy-sweet snacks and breads you may never have tasted before. Since few of them cost more than $10, misfires aren't painful. Mithaas' menu mines multiple regions -- north, south, Mumbai, the border with China (for a raft of Indo-Manchurian dishes) -- but doesn't stray from the street-food ethos. Flatbread and crepes reign supreme here, from papery roti, to dosas, to pancake-like uttapam. The cheese uttapam is akin to an Indian quesadilla -- melted mozzarella oozing from between sour rice-flour crepes you'll drag through sambar, an earthy lentil curry that comes with many breads. More info: 516-605-1230, mithaas.com
A large pillowy dosa served with several chutneys at Mithaas in Hicksville.
Saravanaa Bhavan (285 S. Broadway, Hicksville): The popular Indian vegetarian chain opened its first Long Island outpost 2016 in Hicksville with a sleek, modern design that befits a successful chain. With a menu of more than 100 items leaning heavily on south India, it's easy to be overwhelmed. If you are on your own, consider the southern thali meal, a daily selection of about a dozen dishes, including curries, chutneys and pickles. Among the highlights is the dosa, an enormous crepe cooked crisp on one side, porous on the other, that is rolled up or folded crisp-side out. Saravanaa Bhavan makes more than two dozen types of dosas. The stars of the show here are the lacy, bathmat-sized rava dosas, including the onion rava masala dosa, that could change the way you think about Indian food. More info: 516-261-7755, saravanabhavan.com
Onion rava masala dosa is served at Saravanaa Bhavan in Hicksville.
Taj Indian Fusion
Taj Indian Fusion (1929 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh): The new star on Long Island's Indian fine dining scene sparks appetites with flavor-packed fare and gracious style. Housed in a modest Wantagh strip mall, Taj has rolled out a red carpet at the front door to show this is not your run-of-the-mill South Asia restaurant. Here, chef Nirmal Gomes prepares traditional Indian dishes, playfully takes an Italian turn (calamari is stir-fried with curry leaves), and brings in a hint of China with gobi Manchurian that translates to addictive cauliflower fritters, deep-fried, then stir-fried with garlic, shallots and peppers in a sweet-spicy sauce. More info: 516-900-1700, tajindianfusion.com
Drums of heaven, sweet and spicy chicken wings served at Taj Indian Fusion in Wantagh.