Cafe Delhi: Destination Indian dining in Carnegie

Tucked inside the Indian Community Center, the efficient and authentic restaurant is gaining in popularity

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Six miles from Pittsburgh, Carnegie has been typecast as a fading steel town. Following some mill closures starting in the 1960s, heavy flooding when Hurricane Ivan hit the region in 2004 forced other businesses and community centers there to close.

But Carnegie is showing signs of an awakening. Nearby Scott has become a pinball mecca as headquarters of the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association, which draws an international crowd twice a year.

Cafe Delhi


1 1/2 stars = Satisfactory+
Ratings explained


1 1/2 stars = Satisfactory+
Ratings explained


1 1/2 stars = Satisfactory+
Ratings explained


1 1/2 stars = Satisfactory+
Ratings explained

205 Mary St.

  • Hours:

    11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Monday.

  • Basics:

    Cafe Delhi is vibrant and inexpensive, featuring Indian street food and Indo-Chinese dishes.

  • Prices:

    Appetizers $3.99 to $4.99; wraps $4.99 to $5.99; sides $1.99 to $2.50; soups/salads $2.50 to $4.99; vegetarian dishes $7.99; nonvegetarian dishes $8.99; desserts/drinks $1.99 to $2.50.

  • Dishes:

    Papadi chat, wraps, gobi Manchurian, goat biryani, palak paneer, dosas, lassi.

  • Summary:

    Outdoor dining, handicapped accessible, credit cards, parking lot.

  • Noise level:

    Quiet to moderate.

Carnegie also boasts some reclaimed spaces. One such spot is the former post office on East Main Street, now the site for Carnegie Coffee Co., which opened in June. Run by Ashley Comer and Greg Romeo, owners of The Medicine Shoppe next door, it sells Illy Italian coffee made by baristas who trained with Georgio Milos at Illy's Universita del Caffè in Manhattan.

Another vibrant draw is the former Holy Souls Catholic Church, now the Indian Community Center, where the 10-day celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi started Monday.

The Indian Community Center is also home to a banquet facility, a yoga center, a hall for classic Indian and Bollywood-style dance lessons, as well as Cafe Delhi, an unlikely place for a destination restaurant. Because this out-of-the-way spot continues to gain popularity it warrants a closer look.

Despite a quirky dining experience or maybe because of it, Cafe Delhi has drummed up a following since it opened in February 2012, with efficient service in an environment more engaging than fluorescent-lit counterparts. Tucked in a space across the courtyard from the church, an exceptionally loud air conditioner whirs in place of music. Once a diner orders at the counter, he takes his number and a seat, where a server delivers dishes as they're ready. On a recent balmy evening, the patio was filled with tables of families while couples sat at tables inside.

With a kitchen run by Navaneetha Krishnan from southern India, Cafe Delhi differs from another destination Indian spot, Udipi in Monroeville, in that it offers nonvegetarian dishes and Indian street food.

Among chaats and snacks, the papadi chat ($3.99) is livelier than vada, savory Indian doughnuts that can sit like a puck. A mix of textures and flavors starts with fried dough, potatoes and chickpeas lathered with tamarind chutney, yogurt and crispy noodles, or sev. A variation is bhel puri ($3.99) made with spicy puffed rice and condiments, served cold.

Terrific sandwiches listed as wraps are actually kati rolls made with more flavorful bread than lifeless pita. Kati, Bengali for stick, points to the origin of the sandwich as a portable means of eating kebab wrapped in a naan or parathas, pan-fried, whole-wheat dough. Sandwiches are stuffed with chicken or fish curry, mixed vegetables, paneer or spicy seekh ($4.99-$5.99) then garnished with cabbage, onions or pickles.

Indo-Chinese dishes also make an appearance with fiery sweet sauces comprised of chilis, soy, garlic and ginger. Indo-Chinese food began showing up on menus in Queens and northern New Jersey around 2006, juxtaposing mild dosas and dishes seasoned by more complex, hand-ground spice blends.

They include gobi Manchurian ($4.99), the fried cauliflower appetizer that smolders with garlic in a soy-chili sauce. Also note a more aggressively hot chili chicken ($4.99). When they're on the menu, lollipop chicken, a derivative of Manchurian lollipop wings, arrives in a murky brown sauce (with an equally murky origin), on chicken reconfigured by a cut bone. Hakka noodles ($7.99) layered with vegetables also deliver Indian variations on a dish with apparent Chinese origins.

Lamb and goat debut as tender meats with distinct flavors in curry, spicy vindaloo, paired with spinach as well as biryani ($8.99). Go for the latter, a slow-cooked dish with basmati rice seasoned with a spice blend of clove, cinnamon and cardamom, a classic.

Vegetarians will not find themselves bored at a good Indian restaurant. A sprawling masala dosa swaddles potatoes and fried onions, served with small bowls of pigeon peas, Indian pickles and chutney. Stray from this comfort food dish to another such as palak paneer with mild cheese and spinach.

A diner may choose a sweet or salty yogurt lassi to mark the end of a meal. Either choice signals that Carnegie is becoming an unlikely host for pinball fans, coffee geeks and those in search of good Indian food.


Melissa McCart: 412-263-1198 or on Twitter @melissamccart First Published September 12, 2013 4:00 AM


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