One of my favorite restaurants in Birmingham, Taj India has a significant place in my heart, so much so that I’ve been sitting on this post for a while, uncertain I would be able to do it justice. Recent events have lit a fire under me–announcements that eventually they will have to move away from their Highland Avenue location as well as their 25th anniversary party this past weekend–so I figured now was as good a time as any to publish my praise already!
Taj is such a special place to me because it is there that I discovered my obsession with Indian food, and I’m pretty sure it is also where I first tried masala chai. And, as a frequenter for the past 15 years, I’ve created many memories there.
I was introduced to the restaurant as a first-year college student through lunch dates with friends and then plenty of solo food frenzies. The restaurant has always offered ample vegetarian options for really affordable prices, so it was one of the few restaurants (at the time) that I could enjoy within walking distance to UAB.
Taj is also where my husband and I went for our first date a decade ago, after he asked to take me out to my favourite restaurant. He had never been, and I found it endearing how he tried hard to pretend the spicy food wasn’t making him sweaty or his nose runny. Later, Taj India is also where we had our engagement celebration dinner, and now we probably eat from there at least once a month, either for the lunch buffet, a sit down dinner of one of their fantastic thali platters, special event festivities, or the occasional to-go order. We like to think that by now they at least know our faces well.
If you’re not familiar with Indian cuisine, or if you’re looking for an affordable feast, their lunch buffet is the way to go. It can be difficult to find parking in their current location right at noon, so I recommend taking an early or late lunch to best find a spot, or park down the road so you can attempt to walk off your over-indulgence afterward.
- Terrific buffet lunch specials: $8.75 for an alternating all-you-can-eat buffet of scrumptious food
- Tons of vegetarian options, especially since they recently expanded their buffet line
- Various alternating selections of mouth-smackingly sweet desserts like gulab jamun, my favourite, as well as kheer and gajar ka halwa
- Blurbs above each buffet item that describe the ingredients and even often the cooking process
- Complimentary servings of naan brought to your table with buffet lunch purchase
- Several varieties of lassi, a yogurt drink that pairs very well with the spicy, flavourful food–my faves are the mango and rose, though they also offer the more traditional salty version, which to me is an acquired taste that I have not yet acquired, but it provides an alternative to the sugary ones
- Expansive menu that offers something for everyone, vegetarian or otherwise
- Crispy, spicy Tandoori roti served with your meal
- “Secret” back section for large parties or for a quieter, more intimate atmosphere
- Terrific service–the staff are all always really friendly and professional, giving the whole experience a classy feel
On a date? One of their two vegetarian house-specialty thalis are the way to go (if ordering online for pick up, make sure to change quantity option to 2 so you don’t end up fighting over dessert):
- The Punjabi thali has all of your fave Punjabi vittles: vegetable pakora, navrattan korma, saag paneer, dal makhni, chana masala, basmati rice, tandoori naan bread, raita, and gulab jamun.
- The Bombay thali features a few of the same, but the pakoras are replaced by bhel puri, one of my favorite snacks featuring puffed rice and tamarind; other dishes in this thali include: kesar pista korma, baingan bharta, mattar paneer, and dal masala.
You can’t go wrong with either of those thalis for taste or variety, but if you just want to order a couple of entrees, our favorite are saag paneer, hariyali malai kofta, and chana masala, with a side of garlic naan; when we’re feeling extra splurgy, we’ll tack on some vegetable pakoras, gulab jamun, and two lassis–one mango and one rose.
If you want quality food and a friendly, but sophisticated atmosphere that’s easy on the wallet, go to Taj! I know we’ll follow them wherever they end up next after the big move (but hope and dream they move even closer to us). Until then, follow them on Facebook to keep up with their fantastic special events, and sometimes they even give you a glimpse into the day’s buffet menu.
P.S. For the rest of July they’re giving away free lassis with the order of an entree.
P.P.S.: *Edit* Just kidding about parking…I forgot that since Western is gone, the parking lot is pretty open! Taj made a joke about it on their FB page.