A new Indian and vegetarian restaurant has opened in McKinney that is part of an international chain. Called Honest Restaurant, it was founded in India in 1975, originally as a street-cart, serving Indian street foods.
The concept graduated to restaurant status, and there are now more than 50 locations across India, and, since 2016, 13 locations in the U.S., in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, and California.
The McKinney restaurant is on the boundary of Allen at 8910 SH 121, #220. It's the second location in Texas, following a location in Houston.
Honest prides itself on making its food from scratch daily. Dishes are cooked to order, and they use no frozen or processed products.
The concept is a big deal in India — everyone knows what it is — and since the McKinney restaurant opened in summer 2019, it has enjoyed a warm welcome, says owner Sanjay Varma.
"It's a well known concept and people who are familiar with it are coming from all over the Dallas area and beyond," he says.
Their menu includes Indian and vegetarian with street foods, sandwiches, dosas, chaat, uttapam, and pav bhaji. They incorporate influences from western, southern, and northern India, including spicy Indo-Chinese dishes.
Specialties include a mixed vegetable dish called bhaji pav, that comes with bread — "pav" means bread; and a veggie rice dish called pulav — like pilaf. There are samosas; Indian-style pizzas with toppings on a wheat flour crust; chole bhature, a fried bread that's served with a side of chickpeas in an authentic north Indian sauce.
There are South Indian dishes such as the crisp crepes filled with potatoes and other vegetables, called dosas; and uttapams, like pancakes made from rice lentils, topped with options such as onion, tomato, bell pepper, and green peas.
At lunch, you can get a "thali" combination plate that comes with a little bit of everything including naan bread, dal (lentils simmered with rice), a vegetable, a paneer cheese, and a dessert.
There is also biryani, the comforting casserole-like rice dish; and popular chaat items such as pani puri, dahi puri, papdi chaat - a small round disc topped with potatoes, chickpeas, and chutney.
There are also Indo-Chinese dishes including "manchurians" — like a vegetarian meatball — fried rice, and noodles, which can be ordered spicy-hot.
They do a "baahubali" sandwich, like an Indian club, stacked with three layers and loaded with veggies such as onions, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers; and vada prav, which is like a slider, with a fried potato dumpling placed inside a housemade bun.
They also do yummy specials such as dabeli, a little spicy sandwich with a spicy veggie filling sprinkled with pomegranates.
What they don't do is buffets, which can be a brave thing for an Indian restaurant to do in Texas. Buffets are a quandary. Indian restaurateurs do them so that diners unfamiliar with the food can see and try a variety of dishes. But buffets ultimately diminish the quality and value of the food.
"I'm not a fan of buffets, because you don't always get food in its peak condition," Varma says. "And yet people call every day and ask if we have a buffet. My goal is to have a place you can go at lunch or dinnertime and get fresh, fantastic food."