What a shame the county line lies where it does; the best Indian restaurants in SoCal lie just five minutes from Buena Park, La Palma and Cypress, yet they're in Artesia, squarely in Squid Ink territory. Damn. Still, we have some good contenders, from Afghan to Southern Indian; it's just a tragedy that OC's Sri Lankan restaurant is no longer open to cap the list.
As always, if you don't like the contents or order of the list, let us have it in the comments!
10. Clay Oven Cuisine of India
There's someone with a modern bent in the kitchen at Clay Oven; thoroughly European ingredients such as artichokes are incorporated into the cuisine, but the reason to go is for their maniacally good goat curry, which has pride of place as the first item in the house specialties section.
15435 Jeffrey Rd. #116, Irvine; 949-552-2851; clayovenirvine.com.
9. Dosa Place
Indian burritos? No, not really; but Dosa Place is the place to go for long tubes of incredibly thin dough wrapped around your choice of fillings, from the standard spiced potatoes, to chile-tinged eggs, to smoky goat curry. You'll need extra napkins.
17245 17th St., Tustin; 714-505-7777; dosaplace.com.
8. Tamarind of London
This high-end, swank dining room's menu is unapologetically for carnivores; everything from masala crabs to tangy, spicy ghost chile vindaloo. Dress up and have a cocktail before dinner; this is about as far as it gets from steam-tray food slopped on rice. Bring money, too.
7862 E. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach; 949-715-8338; tamarindoflondon.com.
7. Bismillah Halal Tandoor
Forker Niyaz Pirani, who's Pakistani, knows his people's food, and when he wants incendiary nihari, he heads here and scoops it up with the best naan in the county. Tip: the smart money calls the order in ahead; the dishes can take a while to cook.
8901 Knott Ave. #D, Buena Park; 714-827-7201; no website.
Besides having the standard Punjabi-inspired foods and a long list of southern Indian specialties, Annapoorna is best know for being one of the only places in OC to get Indo-Chinese food; chicken Manchurian is worth the trip alone. The best dish, though, is a regional dish of fish in tamarind sauce.
14550 Culver Dr., Irvine; 949-651-1144; miannapoorna.com.
While the dinner menu beckons with such things as stuffed karela (bitter melon) and generous plates of a better-than-average selection of vegetarian dishes, the crowd appears at lunchtime, when Haveli puts out an incredible spread for just $8. The first dish to empty is the best vegetable-patty korma in town.
13882 Newport Ave., Tustin; 714-669-1011; no website.
Most people in OC haven't got the least clue what Afghan food is, but the knowledge is there for people who head south. Try the aushak, which are dumplings served with meat sauce and sour cream, and the bolonis, which are flatbreads with an array of great fillings.
25262 Jeronimo Rd. #B, Lake Forest; 949-859-1778; chilichutney.com.
3. Punjabi Tandoor
Three quarters of the Indian dishes most Americans have heard of are actually Punjabi, and they're done with varying amounts of skill by chefs not from Punjab. Not so at Punjab Tandoor, where everything from saag paneer to chana masala is done richly and just about perfectly.
327 S. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim; 714-635-3155; punjabitandoor.com.
Tustin is Indian Food Central in la naranja, and Traditions is where most people head. Make sure you get at least one order of gobi paratha, flatbread stuffed with spiced cauliflower, and then make your way from there; baingan bhartha (eggplant) is the least greasy rendition of it in OC, and made for a big pile of fluffy rice.
14131 Red Hill Ave., Tustin; 714-508-5959; traditionsfood.com.
The best Indian restaurant in Orange County is barely a restaurant; it's a hot food bar in the back of an Indian grocery store on a high-speed stretch of Orangethorpe. Still, the food is absolutely top-notch and much more varied than the same-old-same-old chickpeas and spinach dishes. Your bread won't come at the same time as your meal, incidentally; they'll make it fresh to order for you.
7232 Orangethorpe Ave., Buena Park; 714-522-1111; no website.
Follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood or on Facebook! And don't forget to download our free Best Of App here!