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Queue up for the 8 best Indian buffets in Dallas

Queue up for the 8 best Indian buffets in Dallas

Muglai, Indian buffet
Plate from Muglai in North Dallas. Photo by Teresa Gubbins
Taj Mahal, Indian buffet
Bins from Taj Mahal in Dallas. Photo by Teresa Gubbins
Udipi, Indian buffet
Plate from Udipi Cafe in Richardson. Photo by Teresa Gubbins
Madras Pavilion, Indian buffet
Buffet line at Madras Pavilion in Richardson Photo by Teresa Gubbins
Madras Pavilion exterior
Exterior of Madras Pavilion in Richardson Photo by Robert Bostick
Muglai, Indian buffet
Taj Mahal, Indian buffet
Udipi, Indian buffet
Madras Pavilion, Indian buffet
Madras Pavilion exterior

If you want to be an Indian restaurant in Dallas-Fort Worth, you pretty much have to do a buffet at lunch. It's the price you pay for serving a cuisine that's unfamiliar to a segment of diners reluctant to order from a menu without knowing what the food looks or tastes like. Luckily, many Indian dishes such as rice, curries and stews successfully withstand the vicissitudes of a buffet steam table.

Most of our Indian restaurants are located in the two suburbs with the largest Indian populations: Irving-Las Colinas and Richardson. But we didn't let geography stop us as we sampled Indian buffets across DFW to narrow down the list of our favorite Indian buffets. Some are vegetarian; others offer goat curry. Best comes first.

Madras Pavilion
Wild scene at this longtime Richardson restaurant, with throngs of Indian families, clanging dishes and a preoccupied urban buzz. Selection was extensive, with soups, lettuce salad, chutneys and 15-plus items, all vegetarian, all excellent — from three-bean stir-fry to potato curry with carrots and peas. Medu vada, or savory lentil doughnuts, had neat crunchy crusts, and there was a pan of creamy mango ice cream sprinkled with chopped pistachios from which you could help yourself.
Buffet pick: Aval upma, a thick porridge-like dish with onion and black sesame seeds
Buffet hours: 11:30 am-3 pm daily
Price: $11.99

Udipi Cafe
Part of a loosely constructed chain with branches around the country, Udipi's buffet is entirely vegetarian and of very good quality, with quite a few one-of-a-kind offerings not seen on other buffets, such as beet poriyal, a.k.a. stir-fried beets, and pineapple gojju, which are pineapple chunks in a spicy gravy. The selection is limited to 10-12 items, but everyone gets a dosa, the large flat crisp Indian crepe, made-to-order, in your choice of plain or spicy. The dining room is clean and bright, the staff crisp and efficient.
Buffet pick: Idli, a moist rice disc that's both dense and fluffy
Buffet hours: 11 am-3 pm, Tuesday-Sunday
Price: $8.99 weekdays; $10.99 weekends

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal gets instant points if only for its location south of 635. But it also has the TLC that comes from a conscientious owner who is also the chef: Charanjit Gill. The buffet table was compact, clean and tidy, with a vibrant selection of chutneys; a trio of soups; and a dozen items ranging from popular staples like chicken tikka masala to less common items like kadhi pakora, onion fritters in a spicy yogurt sauce.
Buffet pick: Ground chicken kebab with onions and peppers
Buffet hours: 11:30 am-2:30 pm daily
Price: $11.99

Bawarchi
Former Clay Pit space hosts a significant buffet with a dozen items, meat and veg, plus three kinds of rice (one being an unusual mint rice), soups, salad, and five desserts. A rather chatty server brought naan to the table in a basket, as opposed to it sitting on the buffet — a nice touch. "Chilly veg" were chunks of cauliflower, bell pepper and other vegetables in a fiery red-hot sauce. Tindora fry, made with an Indian vegetable, resembled blistered chilies. Decor is a trip with a blue-sky mural on the ceiling.
Buffet pick: Mango kesari, a rich, extra-thick pudding flavored with cardamom
Buffet hours: 11:30 am-2:30 pm daily
Price: $10.99

Mughlai
Tucked behind Galleria Dallas, Mughlai has become a critical favorite not only for its food, but also for its classy atmosphere and attentive service — two things that you don't usually encounter at Indian restaurants. The buffet was medium-size, with four meat items (white-meat chicken, mostly), five veggies, desserts, and a lettuce-and-tomato salad that was noticeably fresh. Presentation was fancy, with shiny domes — sharper than the usual steam table. The crowd included lots of office workers. Servers were sweet.
Buffet pick: Aloo tikki, aka spicy potato patties, flecked with seeds and Indian spices
Buffet hours: 11:30 am-2:30 pm, Monday-Friday; noon-3 pm, Saturday-Sunday
Price: $12.99

Kalachandji's
Restaurant at Hare Krishna temple is officially vegetarian, but if it had a certifiable cuisine, Indian would be it. The menu changes every day, but there is always soup, rice dish, vegetable curry, vegetable pakora, wafers and chutney, plus a few non-Indian dishes and a couple of Indian desserts. Divine atmosphere.
Buffet pick: Cinnamon swirl bread
Buffet hours: 11:30 am-2 pm daily
Price: $8.95

Vindu
Vindu comes from the owners of Pasand in Irving, who closed the Richardson Pasand after opening this nicer spot in Far North Dallas. Its saffron-colored walls and booths with granite tabletops are a step up, but service was hilariously bad, with a manager on his cellphone who gestured toward a table brusquely. The buffet held neon-pink tandoori chicken and many fried things, including potato-and-pea-filled samosas and vegetable fritters (a.k.a. pakora). Customers were mostly groups of Indian males, looking for a cheap, filling lunch.
Buffet pick: "Cabbage fry," spicy stir-fried shredded cabbage and peas
Buffet hours: 11:30 am-2:30 pm daily
Price: $8.99

Mumtaz
Mumtaz in Richardson was a big place with a couple of big-screen TVs in the corner, and yet it had a homespun feel, with hand-written signs on the buffet table. It specializes in Punjabi food, including spicy curries, tandoori meats and veggie items. The buffet had about 12-15 items total, with attentive staffers who replenished the naan bread regularly.
Buffet pick: Andhra-style eggplant, with chunks of soft eggplant and onion in a chunky tomato sauce
Buffet hours: 11:30 am-2:30 pm, Monday-Friday; 11:30 am-3 pm, Saturday-Sunday
Price: $8.95