Two years ago on Halloween weekend, it was well below freezing outside. I remember this clearly because I was on my way to a party and was waiting for the bus bundled up in multiple layers, wearing two pairs of socks and hiding my gloved hands in my coat pockets. I looked like a penguin waddling back and forth to keep my body moving in the cold, but it felt like every one of my fingers and toes would fall off. They were so numb that it felt like they were on fire. I’m not sure how I survived but what confused me most were the girls wearing mini skirts and sleeveless tops that night. I guess looks are more important than comfort.
If you’re looking for something warm and comforting this season, there’s a great restaurant in Campustown that has a variety of savory meals to choose from. I love sweets, and Halloween is the perfect time to get my fill of all things sugary and chocolatey, but there comes a point where I need a break from that saccharine overload. Bombay Indian Grill is just the spot to visit.
My friends and I visited the restaurant toward the end of the week for dinner. It was still early, only about 5 p.m. so there were hardly any other customers dining during that time, but there were plenty of seats to choose from. The window seats in the front corner of Bombay are the best because they provide the most natural light and an excellent view of the street if you enjoy people watching. The service at this place is excellent. Almost immediately after sitting down, a server approached our table with a handful of menus and took our drink orders. I could already smell the wonderful Indian spices drifting from the kitchen and the pungent aroma of garlic cooking on the stove.
What I love about Indian restaurants is the family-style dining option. There are so many wonderful flavors and it’s easy to get a little taste of everything when you can share it with your friends. To start off, we ordered a samosa chat from the appetizers. If you’re familiar with samosas and think they taste delicious as they are, you have no idea what you’re missing until you’ve tried samosa chat. The samosa is a fried, crispy pastry filled with a fragrant potato and pea mixture that is soft and slightly moist, brought to another level when you order the samosa chat. Picture a rainbow of different chutneys — some spicy, some sweet and tangy — creamy yogurt, more spices, onions, and fresh herbs on top of this incredible concoction. This dish is $4.49 and definitely worth ordering. It’s surprisingly filling, so splitting it among friends is the way to go if you want to save room for other foods at Bombay.
Another great part about this restaurant is that it caters to people with different dietary needs. If you’re vegetarian, there’s much more than a boring salad or weird tofu dish. The vegetarian options are just as flavorful as the non-vegetarian options that you can hardly notice the difference. One of my favorite things to order is the paneer makhani, a creamy tomato sauce filled with large chunks of paneer, an Indian cheese that is far superior to tofu even though the physical resemblance is nearly identical. Paneer is soft but still has enough bite that keeps you wanting more and is very mild in flavor, which complements the tanginess of the tomato sauce. Did I also mention it’s a little spicy too? I love anything spicy, so this is no problem for me, especially since I’ve tried hot sauces with ghost pepper and didn’t even need a drink of water. During the dinner hour, this dish is $10.99 but you can also find it on the lunch menu for $8.99. It’s served with either rice or naan (a fluffy, grilled flatbread that is highly addictive) and comes in a cute, little, silver bowl that is easy to pass around if you’re sharing with your group.
If you end up visiting Bombay Indian Grill during their lunch hour, the setting is much more casual. Dishes are served on styrofoam plates and bowls, which is a bit of a turnoff in my opinion. I don’t like to feel like I’m in a cafeteria when I’m dining in a restaurant. However, the quality of the food is still excellent and the prices are slightly lower. Bombay is not an upscale Indian restaurant but considering there’s only one other buffet style Indian place around campus, it’s the best that is offered in this area. If you’re looking for something meaty on the lunch menu, I recommend the chicken korma ($7.49) or the chicken makhani ($7.99). The first dish is cooked in a creamy, mild cashew sauce with chunks of roasted veggies and tender bits of chicken. The second dish is exactly like paneer makhani only the paneer is replaced with chicken. Even between four people, there was still food leftover since the servings at Bombay are very generous and the food itself is filling.
Whether you’re looking for something delicious, something to keep you warm during the fall, or something to expand your palate, Bombay Indian Grill has something to offer everyone.
Bombay Indian Grill is located at 403 E Green St, Champaign. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m to 10 p.m; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
All photos by Madeleine Marsh.