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Tandoory Taco Takes On Tex-Mex with Food that Tickles Your Tastebuds

The staff of Tandoory Taco poses next to their menu, the head cook, Kathir Athi (left), Yash Nagalingam (second from right).

The staff of Tandoory Taco poses next to their menu, the head cook, Kathir Athi (left), Yash Nagalingam (second from right).

By Parth Dwivedi
THE WOODLANDS: Texas has no shortage of restaurants, and while a large part of its identity lies in its vast culinary experience, a growing part of that experience lies in Indian food. Anyone who has been to Houston can attest to the good eats. Needless to say I was nothing short of happy when I heard about Tandoory Taco. Wait. Tandoory Taco? Nevermind what I said; I was nothing short of ecstatic! And they did not disappoint.

Located immediately off of I-45 in The Woodlands, making the trip can be seen as a worthwhile hike for some, a convenient stop heading up toward Conroe, Dallas or College Station for others, or nearby for a few.

Walking in, the bright colors catch your eye, accentuated by plenty of natural light from the Texas Sun, let in through large windows, while wooden tables and chairs contrast the trendy coloring with a more rustic feel. Friendly staff greet you and a variety of music plays in the background while you figure out what you want from the menu in a fast-casual set-up uncommon to most Indian restaurants.

The menu itself is split into two groups. One side caters to the more traditional Indian food-lovers with a large assortment of dishes from Hyderbadi food, to Hakka-Indian fusion, to South Indian food. The biryani was served in fair-sized portions and was full of flavors. Using minimal oil, it was also healthy, and while it came out without the flavor of mirch, spice-lovers can always order theirs hot.

I know what you’re thinking, now, “But what about the tacos?” Finally my favorite part of the menu! The menu itself had a wide variety of tacos, some with more Indian ingredients like The Patriot, with tandoori chicken and curry sauce, and others with more conventional ingredients, like The Convict, with shrimp and baja sauce. I had The Brit, which had a very Indian taste, being made using a strongly flavored curry sauce and chicken tikka. I also had The Hippie, Tandoory Taco’s vegetarian option, with cooked mushroom, sautéed vegetables and Baja Chipotle sauce. A mutton-lover from birth, I had to try The Emperor as well, a taco with ground lamb, a first for me, peas, and a variety of herbs.

Unwilling to sacrifice quality, each hired kitchen-hand is experienced and many are specialized (that explains all the flavors in the biryani!). The head cook, Kathir Athi, is stylistically open-minded and has a knack for creating unique dishes; he even makes all the sauces in-house.

The interior of the restaurant. It gets all of the light from the hot Houston Sun without any of the heat.

The interior of the restaurant. It gets all of the light from the hot Houston Sun without any of the heat.

The tacos can also be seen as kati rolls, a popular Indian street-food originating in Kolkata that made its way to the U.S. since they can be made using paratha-bread. Yash Nagalingam, who owns Tandoory Taco explains that he wants to give his customers the option to use different kinds of breads, with different amounts of spice, and even more ingredients to enjoy casual grab ‘n’ go meals. The more traditional sit-down part of the menu reflects this philosophy as well, incorporating dishes from all over India. Madiha Haque, a lunch-time customer, especially liked the “affordability” and “selection.”

The best part about the restaurant, though, is the malleability of the staff. Every employee is centrally concerned with the customer’s experience, and as such, is very open to criticism. Nagalingam jokes, “I’m not that smart, so I need to rely on customer-opinion.”

In short, Tandoory Taco is a deliciously Indian alternative to the usual Tex-Mex for the adventurous (or even the hurried), and a more traditional Indian meal for lovers of consistency.

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