Cheap Eats / Naan-Tastic
Accessible Indian food in a fun format
Diners have mix and match options. Shown here: chicken and paneer tikka with naan, masala sauce, samosas and pistachio gulab
Photos by Eric Frick
1595 Niagara Falls Boulevard, Amherst
It’s like Chipotle, but for Indian food. And it’s genius.
Naan-Tastic is bringing affordable, fast-casual Indian food to the masses, making Indian food easier to understand and enjoy. By putting the food in a friendly format—the familiar, build-your-meal style popular at many casual eateries—the flavors and textures of Indian food can be experienced by not only those who love Indian food, but also by many who would not otherwise walk into an Indian restaurant. The enterprise was started by brothers Ajay and Aman Singh, who are University at Buffalo and D’Youville College alumni. They opened the first Naan-Tastic location in Rochester, where it was a success, and followed it up with the Buffalo location.
We walked into Naan-Tastic just before the lunch rush hit, allowing us to get the feel of the place before it filled up. The inside is painted in bright red and gray with street art vibes, wooden tables and flooring, metal chairs, barrel stools, and fun, steampunk accents. A couple of curious-looking monkeys hang from the ceiling and a motorcycle chills in the corner. Upbeat music sets the mood.
Decorating the long corridor, where patrons wait before reaching the order counter, are images of the spices in Indian food—cinnamon, fenugreek leaves, cumin seeds, coriander, and others—with their health benefits inscribed in halos around the pictures. It makes for interesting reading while in queue.
At the counter, start by picking a style: flour wrap, bowl, or naan “taco.” Then you pick your base of various greens, rice, fries, or quinoa, followed by proteins that include fish, chicken, beans, and cheese. Then choose among four sauces, ranging from sweet to spicy, a variety of toppings—cheese, cilantro, red onions, for example—and finally, a finishing sauce.
The whole process allows for a high level of control, which is why some may feel more comfortable experiencing Indian food this way. Also, if you’re not sure what to order, or not sure what something is, or even want a sample, no worries. Everything is explained, and guests are asked at the outset if it’s their first time there.
I chose turmeric rice for my base, along with the proteins chicken and paneer cheese, which is a mild, grilled cheese, with masala sauce on the side. I also ordered a butter naan, garlic naan, veggie samosa, and aloo paneer tiki. For dessert, I ordered a cardamon cookie and nutella pistachio gulab. We made our way to one of the tables, where we promptly dug in.
The chicken is tender with a slight smoky taste and the cheese mild and pleasing. The masala sauce is sweet from caramelized onions. It pairs perfectly with the proteins and the cooked-just-right rice. Both the butter and garlic naan are pillowy soft, a useful vehicle for mopping leftover sauce. The samosa is well-spiced, crispy on the outside and chockful of veggies. The paneer tiki is crispy with potatoes on the inside. We also enjoyed the cardamon cookie. The pistachio gulab dessert, which was not done at the time we ordered, was delivered to our table later. It is a spongy, syrupy ball coated in nutella and pistachios. We’re glad we had the opportunity to try this traditional Indian dessert.
The service was friendly and fast, but, more important, everything tastes fresh. The quality is there and the prices are affordable. Naan-Tastic is an exciting, fun place to grab a bite, a place that gets you out of your pizza-burgers-salad dining rut and into something that provides a new twist on a familiar cuisine. It’s a place that Western New York needed.