Cowboys & Indians brings an interesting fusion to the table, combining Indian food with Mexican food. Sounds kinda weird and like it might not work, but it most certainly does. This place has been around for a while with their flagship location conveniently connected to The El Rey theater on Wilshire Blvd., and the owner is the same guy who started Electric Lotus (another tasty Indian restaurant). The spot on Wilshire is tiny and almost more like a snack bar connected to the theater, a great place to get a quick bite before seeing a show, while the new place on Sunset smack dab in the middle of Silver Lake’s hipster district is more of a sit-down restaurant where you can chill out and enjoy a full meal.
I got to check out the new Cowboys & Indians last week with my homegirls-who-lunch crew, the lovely Miss Sara T. and the equally luscious Miss DoubleD. and we all really enjoyed the experience. One of the first things that caught my attention before even entering the restaurant was their sidewalk sign:
As I mentioned on my Twitter at the time, I love it when places that aren’t vegan tell you right on the menu what is (note the Tofu Bhujiya). It’s the little things that count. This is apparently quite a popular sentiment considering how often it’s now been retweeted, and repeated. While I didn’t get to try their tasty sounding vegan breakfast options as shown on the sign (we’d already missed the 3pm cut-off time), most all of the options at Cowboys & Indians also have a vegan version, and the staff seemed to be very vegan friendly, offering up information on ingredients when they knew the answer, and going back into the kitchen to ask questions about stuff they weren’t sure about. Here’s the basic stuff vegans will want to know: all the curries are vegan, made with coconut milk. The tortillas are vegan. The regular naan breads are not vegan but the whole wheat naan is.
We started our meal with a few shared appetizers.
First we tried the Vegan Samosas. These were MASSIVE! Due to the angle of the picture, the true size of this monster is not being done justice, it’s about the size of both my fists held together… huge! One would definitely be enough for two people, it’s the largest samosa I’ve ever seen before.
It’s not just big, it’s also delicious. Stuffed with peas, potatoes, Indian spices and I don’t know what else, it’s a darn good samosa and practically a meal unto itself. Going with the whole Indian/Mexican theme of things, we were also given a selection of not only the expected Indian chutneys (tamarind and mint), but also Mexican salsas (tomatillo and traditional red sauce) to go with our samosas. It’s definitely a unique twist but the disparate flavors all really do go well together.
We also did a three-way on an order of Masala Fries. These are basically regular french fries that have been spiced up with some curry powder and salt, and served with a side of masala sauce for dipping. Again, I’d have to say this was another perfect combo. Curry really does make most things better and french fries are no exception. The masala sauce is excellent and would probably make even the most mediocre foods taste extraordinary.
I had a hard time deciding what to get as everything there sounds awesome, but I finally settled on the Tofu Spinach Naanwich for my main entree. It’s basically an Indian version of a tostada but with naan bread instead of a tortilla, topped with basmati instead of spanish rice, tofu curry instead of beans & meat, along with all the fixin’s, such as more of their yummy chutney, fresh cilantro, and what looks a heck of a lot like shredded cheese. Turns out the cheesy looking stuff ain’t cheesy at all, it’s actually what Cowboys & Indians refers to as “pea strips”, aka crispy chickpea noodles, aka “sev”. They don’t have a very strong flavor but do add a nice little crunch to each bite, and the visual illusion of it being real cheese is pretty strong.
Miss DoubleD. like many of us is sensitive to soy, so instead of the tofu naanwich she got the spinach version, which is similar though served with a saag (spinach) curry instead of tofu. I like that even though this place doesn’t have a huge menu, there are options for just about every type of eater to mix and match from.
I also got to try the Tandoori Taco: “soft shell corn tortillas topped with lettuce, tomato, cilantro, grilled onion chutney, tamarind chutney, mint chutney and garnished with pea strips”. This taco was also very tasty, though quite similar to the naanwich. I liked the flavors on both though I think when I go back I’ll stick with the larger and heartier naanwich, mostly because I’m not a huge fan of corn tortillas. That’s just a personal preference though and there was nothing wrong with the taco… it was quite good and for $2.50 a pop, you really can’t go wrong. You can also get any of these delights wrapped up like a burrito for the full Indo-Mex effect.
Here’s a look at the Tofu Tikka Masala. This one came from the original Cowboys & Indians on Wilshire, hence the paper plate. When you order this at the new restaurant on Sunset I’m pretty sure it won’t come on disposable tableware. The masala sauce was rich and thick with the comforting flavors of tomato, silky coconut and subtle but hot spices. I was at the El Rey to see a concert which was about to start (you can actually hear the bands from inside the food stand) but I couldn’t stop eating until I ate up every last drop of this curry… it was so good that missing a song or two wasn’t as important as getting in my remaining bites of tofu. Yeah, I’ve got my priorities.
There are some pretty mixed reviews about Cowboys & Indians on Yelp, ranging from people talking like it’s the best place on earth to people who gave it one star reviews and dissed everything from the food to the staff to the incense. I can only speak for myself and perhaps for my dining companions in letting you know that we enjoyed everything we ate and that the staff was friendly and attentive (both locations). I’m not going to blow this place out of proportion and tell you it’s the best Indian or Mexican food you’ll ever eat, because it’s not. But for what it is… a somewhat genius take on ethnic street food fusion, I’d say they’re doing a swell job of tantalizing taste buds and taking care of their customers. They’ve gone out of their way to make their offerings vegan friendly which is a huge plus in my book. The even bigger plus is that it’s all delicious. Now I just need to work on waking up early enough next time so that I don’t miss out on their tempting breakfast. Stay tuned…
Cowboys & Indians
2815 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
5515 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
- Re-Opened: Vietnamese Soy Cafe in Silver Lake
- Flore vegan restaurant in Silver Lake
- Vegan Tandoori and Curry at Follow Your Heart
- New location for Hy Mart Deli
- Basu’s Homestyle: Indian feast fit for a queen