Universal Market & Indian Restaurant has an array of flavors for cuisine’s newcomers, lovers

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The buffet offers about 16 different options to eat. (Omar Zapata | The Monitor)

McALLEN — Walking into the Universal Market & Indian Restaurant you are instantly surrounded with traditional Indian aromas coming from the restaurant buffet and awestruck with the selection of food in the market.

My love for Indian food started a few years ago when I would visit a friend at Texas A&M- Kingsville. With Kingsville not having many options of eating out, he would take me to an Indian restaurant called Spice Station which became a ritual every time I would visit.

Not trying any Indian restaurant in the Valley, I decided to finally end that and try Universal Market & Indian Restaurant for South Texas Flavor.

Located at 905 W. Dove Ave. in McAllen and open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., the restaurant has an option to eat in at the buffet or order to go.

The buffet offers about 16 different options to eat and has something for everyone, whether you’re new and looking to try Indian food or looking for an exact dish.

The buffet option in my opinion is great for anyone looking to get into Indian food but not exactly sure what to get and expect.

Offering classic Indian dishes from butter chicken, a type of curry made from chicken with tomato and butter sauce, chana masala, a chickpea curry stew to the sweet treat of gulab jamun, a soft dough ball deep fried and dropped into a syrup.

It is a bit overwhelming at first since you just want to try everything.

Limiting myself to smaller portions in an effort to try everything the buffet offered, my first plate were the dishes I knew.

The plate had butter chicken, rice with vegetables and palak paneer, a dish with chucks of Indian cottage cheese with a spinach sauce.

Spicy veggie noodles, samosas, a pastry filled with spice potatoes onions peas and at times meat or fish, veggie korma, a creamy mildly spiced flavorful curry with vegetables, gulab jamun, soft dough ball deep fried and dropped into a syrup, tandoori chicken, a roasted chicken marinated in yogurt and spices and lamb biryani, a rice dish with a mixture of lamb mutton and vegetables. (Omar Zapata | The Monitor)

The butter chicken curry was amazing, tasting the savory flavors of the curry with every bite, which also mixed well with the side of rice I had. The palak paneer was my favorite thing on the plate. The Indian cottage cheese has a type of tofu texture that mixed well with the green spinach sauce.

Also with the option of eating in, you get served naan, a type of flatbread, which comes out fresh, hot and buttery. I’ve had plenty of naan before but the naan at this restaurant was phenomenal. Having the right amount of crisp and softness to it, I suggest eating it hot right when it gets to your table.

To my pleasant surprise, serving the fresh naan was an old friend from UTRGV, Noor, a Bangladeshi student that moved to Edinburg to pursue a master’s degree.

Naan, a type of flatbread, which is served fresh, hot and buttery alongside your buffet plate. (Omar Zapata | The Monitor)

Lighting up with a smile once he saw me, I also was delighted to see Noor and catch up with him. Learning about Noor, his homeland and vice versa when we had an anthropology class together, he is truly one of the nicest and most humble human beings I’ve met and he carries that attitude serving the customers at the restaurant.

My second plate consisted of spicy veggie noodles, samosas, a pastry filled with spice, potatoes, onions, peas and at times meat or fish, veggie korma, a creamy mildly spiced flavorful curry with vegetables, gulab jamun, tandoori chicken, a roasted chicken marinated in yogurt and spices, and lamb biryani, a rice dish with a mixture of lamb mutton and vegetables.

Everything on the second plate was delicious as well, packing a punch of flavors with every bite.

My favorite was the veggie korma with the creamy curry being the best sauce of the day.

With every option on my plate carrying its own flavor and kick to it, the gulab jamun was a great option to end lunch with the little balls of dough being deliciously moist and sweet.

One thing from all the food was that nothing was too spicy which was good but also a bit disappointing. I wanted a little bit more of a spicy kick from some of the dishes but what it did not lack was the different flavors and spices you can clearly taste from each different option.

Alongside with the restaurant is a market that sells Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani groceries and other middle eastern products. (Omar Zapata | The Monitor)

Alongside with the restaurant is a market that sells Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani groceries and other middle eastern products.

Also being a lover of snacks, I checked out the market and was amazed by the variety the market had to offer. Wishing I could try everything at least once, I settled with Masala flavored chips, choco nut filled cookies and some biscuit cookies.

With most of the items in the market being reasonably priced, I suggest checking out the market and trying something new, you might just find your new favorite snack.