Do you like Chipotle? Do you like Indian food? Have you ever had the late-night idea that someone should make a restaurant like a Chipotle, but with, “Indian” tacos?
Well, that muniches-fueled pipedream is now a reality, friend. Naan-tastic is a fast-casual (read: Chipotle-style) restaurant where rice bowls and a flatbreads are topped with the various sauced-up proteins typically found in your favorite Indian buffet.
(Side note: If you haven’t tried Indian food before, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?)
Located on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst just south of the I-290 thruway exit, Naan-tastic was started in Rochester by two brothers Aman and Ajay Singh, with the first location opening just last year. The new Amherst location is the second iteration of Naan-tastic.
In a phone conversation, Aman Singh told us his family has owned a sit-down Indian restaurant in Rochester called Thali of India since 2001.
“I guess Naan-tastic is kind of a culmination of all the things we’ve picked up since Thali of India opened,” he said. “We actually get a lot of customers that are Indian, or that are used to Indian food (at Naan-tastic). It’s a modern style of service, but it’s still authentic and traditional food. All the sauces and marinades for all of our proteins, all the recipes are authentic, traditional Indian recipes. It’s the same sauces you get at a traditional Indian restaurant, but now we’ve just presented it in a fast-casual manner. It’s a lot more user-friendly and less intimidating for people who haven’t tried Indian food.”
A lot of restaurants claim to serve “authentic” food, but what is authentic? Singh told us the food you typically find at an Indian restaurant in the US is what you would find over in India.
“(Indian food served in America) is pretty typical to what’s you would find in India, but in India, the food that you eat at home is usually not the same food that you would eat at restaurants,” he said. “There are two different cooking styles. There’s home-style cooking, which is a lot more water-based, like all the curries and gravies are all water-based.
“Typically when you go to restaurants, either in India or here, there’s a lot more to it; more tomatoes, more onions and the gravies are thicker. So if you go to eat at someone’s house (in India), the food is a little bit soupier, and a thinner consistency for the most part.”
When we went to check out the food at Naan-tastic, located in a massive plaza, we were blown away by how vibrant it was inside. Bhangra (Indian club music) was pumping out over the soundsystem and vibrant red, black and white paints were splayed graffiti-style across the walls. On a Thursday night and near UB, Naan-tastic was filled with what looked like a college crowd.
We found the food just as vivacious as the atmosphere. Our chicken tikka masala “taco” was more like a taco bowl. It featured crisp, fresh veggies and familiar, tummy-warming Indian flavors. The Mahkani fries dish was basically Indian poutine. Eating it felt like a late night rendezvous with an exotic lover, so thrilling, yet so familiar.
Ordering our food went just how you’d think: Pick a bowl/bread, protein, sauce and toppings. To be honest, this kind of fast-casual service can be intimidating if you’re not very familiar with the menu or the food. Thankfully, the staff was super helpful in guiding us through the ordering process and making suggestions.
There are also from-scratch desserts available, as well as soft drinks and craft beer, the perfect companions to spicy, savory Indian flavors.
“We’ve taken a lot of different dietary restrictions in mind when we made out menu,” Singh told us. “Most menu items are vegan. Almost our entire menu is gluten-free, except for a few things.”
Whether you’re new to Indian food, never tried it or you eat it all the time, Naan-tastic is definitely worth checking out.
1565 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst, NY 14226
Hours: Every day, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.