Downtown San Jose isn’t exactly a hot spot for Indian restaurants, particularly those with a bent toward southern Indian cuisine. Luckily, we do have Dosa & Curry, a casual, inexpensive restaurant on Fourth Street, across from San Jose State University in the old Gallos de Villa Taqueria building.

Dosa & Curry has all the ingredients necessary for a typical college eatery: cheap prices, large portions, late hours, minimal ambience—and a happy hour from 3 to 6pm. But the place serves some authentic, flavorful Indian comfort food and street-food bites. They score points right off for their convenient, self-service chutney bar, which also includes raita (yogurt dip) and complimentary sambar (pea and potato stew). The sambar is hearty, subtly seasoned and has a spiciness that sneaks up on you.

Since the cafe specializes in dosas—fermented crepes made from rice and lentils—I wanted to be sure and give those a taste. The clerk enthusiastically recommended the Mysore masala dosa ($5.99). It was so big there wasn’t enough room for it on the plate. The crepe was lightly coated with red garlic chutney and filled with potatoes and onions, making it a satisfying vegetarian dish, with just that slight bitter flavor of turmeric.

For finger foods, the vegetable pakaras ($3.99) are a good choice. These fritters made of spinach, onions and eggplants are a nice crunchy, salty snack. The combination of veggies gives them a taste familiar to fried okra. Though tasty on their own, they’re even better when dipped in the sweet sauce, which is also available at the self-serving station. Another interesting south Indian item is the vada ($2.99), a kind of savory donut. Bland on its own, the vada comes alive when served with one of the three chutneys. I recommend the cilantro-coconut version.

For the biggest bang for your buck, Dosa & Curry offers six combination meals between $3.49 and $7.49. I ordered the No. Four ($7.49), which includes butter chicken, naan and chicken biryani, plus a fountain drink—enough food for at least two people. The butter chicken wasn’t bad, though there was a bit too much tomato in the curry. The chicken biryani, however, didn’t disappoint. The chicken was served inside a bowl of rice and still on the bone piping hot. The rice was crunchy, as if it had just been scraped off the bottom of the frying pan. The combination of sweet, sour, savory and spicy all melded quite naturally.

Dosa & Curry Cafe
345 S. Fourth St., San Jose