Named the best Indian restaurant in 2012 by the Houston Press, an award that’s hard to argue with, Shri Balaji Bhavan is a favorite amongst Houstonians. Like many forms of South Indian cuisine, this place is strictly vegetarian, but no matter—even the most hard-pressed meat eaters will love it. With lots of variety, flavor, and dishes to choose from, those who love authentic and traditional Indian food must visit this restaurant.

Routinely Packed

If you’re in a hurry or just want to grab a quick lunch on the go, you might want to try somewhere else for lunch. While the service is great and timely, this restaurant is routinely packed, making getting a table during peak dining hours a bit difficult. In cases such as these, the wait is about 30 minutes. In addition to that, the restaurant style is one where you order from the counter, rather than having your order taken from your table. Essentially, it’s Indian fast food, although it’s not always that fast. If you’re up for taking your time, though, you won’t be disappointed by the food once it finally reaches your table.

Don’t be Fooled

Despite the fact that this a self-service restaurant that’s located in an unassuming, and perhaps unappealing, building, and the fact that the restaurant is really inexpensive, the food is of the highest possible quality. The masala dosas ($4.99) are highly recommended, as is the puri Bhaji ($3.49). In fact, this restaurant is so inexpensive that you’ll probably end up paying less than $25 for two people, and that’s with ordering more than one dish apiece.

Count Out the Curry

While most Indian restaurants offer a variety of curry options, you won’t find much of this sweet and spicy dish on the menu at Shri Balaji Bhavan. Rather, the dishes focus much more on potatoes, crepes, chili beans, chickpeas, and rice. Oh wait, there is a curried potato dish, but it’s not like your regular curry and rice bowl that you might expect from an Indian restaurant.

Go with a Group

There’s a pretty big menu at this restaurant, and it’s highly recommended to go with a group so that each of you can sample a little bit of everything. Since the prices are so affordable, there’s no reason not to order a couple dishes each and share with the table. And, since you simply order from the counter at the front of the restaurant, you can always start with a few dishes and go back to place a second order for the dishes you just can’t get enough of. Plus, eating with a group of friends or family is often more fun anyway. If you’re comfortable sharing dishes with anyone, this can be a fun place to take a date, too.

Go hungry, leave full, and make sure to order an Indian coffee or lassie to have with your meal.