Expect a bit of street-food chaos at Biju’s Little Curry Shop in RiNo: There’s probably a line snaking out the door, the menu is easy to miss, and once first-timers make it to the counter, they might wonder what to order. But watch those who go before and trust that, really, everything’s as it should be here.

Fast-casual dining has become so ubiquitous that it can struggle to feel inspired; Biju’s is a departure. Faraway spices and layered flavors hint at soulful cooking and authenticity. In fact, the comforting South Indian curries are an ode to owner Biju Thomas’ childhood in Kerala, India. “This is an evolution of what I grew up eating,” Thomas says. Expect fragrant basmati; biriyani (rice with cashews, dates, raisins, and peas); beef, veggie, and chicken curries; flatbread; and fiery-hot chutneys. Build a bowl by choosing your rice, veggies, and protein, and top it all with crunchy slaw and flavorful chutney. Customize your meal or rely on a few posted favorites, including the rich coconut-curry chicken or the masala beef, redolent with ginger and garlic. No matter how you construct them, the bowls, which range from $8.95 to $12.95, are generous enough to serve as two meals in one.

Biju’s from-scratch, expressive character extends to the space. Chalk art of ornate elephants and colorful scribbles decorate the cinder-block walls. Check them out over sips of the city’s best house-made chai. And when you see an open seat, grab it because it won’t be free for long—a scenario we’re betting will be replicated when the Berkeley location opens this month. 1441 26th St.; 4279 Tennyson St.; 303-292-3500

Our Favorites

Coconut-curry chicken $9.95

Vindaloo chicken bowl $9.95

Masala beef $10.95

Vegetarian combo $8.95

Chai $2

This article was originally published in 5280 March 2016.
Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.