Recently, on one of my customary library crawls, I passed an Indian restaurant on the corner of a strip mall in Watauga. Alternately intrigued and suspicious, I looked up India Café online from the safety of the nearest bookcave. The restaurant has a website, I discovered, and when the words “masala bowls and wraps” flashed onto the home page, I knew I had to check this place out.
Only a few months ago, The New York Times ran a story about the advent of Indian fast-food restaurants in Colorado, serving bowls and burrito-like wraps a la Chipotle and Qdoba. Already, the Mid-Cities has a restaurant offering these newfangled fusion items? (Admittedly, the Times’ trend pieces can be woefully behind the curve.)
This place already had a few things going for it, at least in my book. From what I could tell, everything about it was unpretentious. The menu showed the operators were willing to experiment and featured snack foods you don’t commonly see at Indian restaurants. The location — in Watauga and facing US 377 — was suitably off the beaten path, and the décor was sparse at best.
Raised on North Indian home-cooking, I have developed a simple set of rules for eating at area Indian restaurants. First, wherever you go, opt for the buffet. This way, you can approximate the kind of well-rounded meal you would typically eat at someone’s home — usually this involves vegetables, dal (lentils), and rice or bread, with the meat optional. The second recommendation –– to find outwardly nondescript holes-in-the-wall –– isn’t of much use west of Hwy. 360. In the Fort Worth area, most Indian restaurants fit this description. However, none of them offers the perks of the hidden gems east of 360. For one thing, you’ll rarely find anyone of South Asian descent eating at these Fort Worth places, which is a bad sign.
Now, India Café doesn’t have a buffet, and while the place is pretty out of the way, on a recent Sunday afternoon visit with my brother and a friend, the only other customers in sight were — no joke — a couple of cowboys. But the place seemed particularly homey. Bollywood music videos were playing on the TV, and the owner, taking orders and running the register, was friendly.
We had come for the masala wraps but decided to give the rest of the menu a shot. Unfortunately, the meal was hit-or-miss. The mango lassi was sickly sweet and looked to have been thickened with concentrate, and the cup of chai was, as it is in many Indian restaurants, overly spiced. On the appetizer front, the veggie samosas were rather standard, but the Bombay Mix (a bowl of puffed rice, peanuts, chickpeas, and fried lentils, seasoned with hot and savory spices) succeeded.
The palak paneer (spinach with cheese) was uneven. The greens had been cooked decently, but the overly fried and hardened chunks of cheese took so long to chew, I actually got a little concerned for my wellbeing. The lamb/goat korma (a type of curry) fared a little better, but the sauce of yogurt, butter, and spices rendered the dish too heavy even for two omnivores to finish.
But then we tucked in to our masala wraps. The wraps and bowls come in your choice of veggie, chicken, or beef varieties and are mixed with a rice-pulao (rice cooked with vegetables); the meatless option also comes with a little paneer. Arguably the least fancy thing we ordered at India Café, the masala wraps were also easily the best dishes we had, tasting like the simplest of home-cooked Indian fare. Neither too oily nor especially heavy, the item also has a distinct health advantage over the greasy burritos that inspired it. The kheer (rice pudding) made for a nice dessert.
Is it worth trekking out to Watauga for a burrito-like Indian wrap? No, but for commuters and others who have reason to pass through the area, India Café offers the perfect portable meal.
6700 Denton Hwy, Ste A, Watauga. 817-514-0787.
12pm-8pm Sun, 11am-9pm Tue-Thu, 11am-9:30pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Mango lassi ……………… $3.50
Bombay Mix …………….. $3.00
Palak paneer ……………. $7.99
Lamb/goat korma ……. $10.99
Veggie masala wrap … $5.99