Cafe Spice Philadelphia Review

Cafe Spice Indian Bistro

35 S 2nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Other Philadelphia Indian Restaurants
Cafe Spice

Cafe Spice Philadelphia - Below Average Food; Brusque Service

Cafe Spice Philadelphia has changed a lot over the years - sadly, for the worse.

First, the Kulfi - our favorite dessert at Cafe Spice - changed.

Now the food has taken a turn for the worse.

We've been to other Cafe Spice outposts in New York and New Jersey but the Philadelphia bistro on South 2nd St used to be our favorite.

Cafe Spice's deterioration saddens us because it was a standout Indian restaurant amidst the mostly dull South Asian food joints in Philadelphia. Indian restaurants in the U.S. typically have drab interiors, unfriendly service and uninteresting menus.

Cafe Spice dared to be different. It had a nice interior, friendly service, good food and a nice bar.

The interiors are still the same at the Philadelphia Cafe Spice but alas, the food is now below average and the service so-so.

Further, some of the fine dishes are not available during lunch now. For instance, Chicken Chettinad is no longer offered on the lunch menu. So on our recent visit we settled for Chicken Vindaloo ($9.95) and Kofta Nazakat ($8.95).

Chicken Vindaloo, Chicken 65, Papri Chaat

As we waited for our entrees, we started with some appetizers - Chicken Sixty-five ($7.25) and Papri Chaat ($6.00).

Chicken Sixty-Five came way too crispy and had too much sauce on it. It was very bland and had little of the flavor we usually associate with the fiery Chicken Sixty-Five.

Perhaps to compensate for the bland Chicken sixty-Five, the chef sent out the Chicken Vindaloo with enough chilli powder for an Indian army. It was awful - just a fiery mass of meat in a bowl with little taste other than that of hot chillis.

Chaat is another perennial favorite for most Indians, who eat it at street-side carts in Mumbai and other cities. But the Papri Chaat at Cafe Spice was just too crunchy for our liking.

Our cup of woes overflowed with Kofta Nazakat, vegetable dumplings in a seasoned spinach sauce. This dish was also a disappointment. Way too bland for our palates.

Lack of Magic Touch

The Kulfi at Cafe Spice now comes in the form of a popsicle not in a bowl anymore. Compared to most Indian restaurants, Cafe Spice still makes a good Kulfi but it is just not as good as it used to be.

The man in the Cafe Spice kitchen is Dhanapal a.k.a Paul who hails from the Sattur area, near Sivakasi in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Dhanapal is a friendly, young soul but lacks the magic touch in the kitchen that Bala, an earlier chef at Cafe Spice had (Bala moved to Delaware a couple of years ago and is now rumored to be in Puerto Rico).

Glimpses of the yesteryear Cafe Spice can be found in the Garlic Naan, the only dish we enjoyed. In our view, making Garlic Naan is a fine art. Very few Indian restaurants get it right. Either, it's over flavored, sometimes with too many small garlic pieces on the Naan itself or underflavored. Cafe Spice got the Garlic Naan just right and we were pleased with it.


As for the Cafe Spice service, it could be a lot better. Our waitress was brusque and seemed to be in a hurry to leave (well, it was close to 3PM and she probably had better things to attend to than wait on two famished souls).

All in all, Cafe Spice Philadelphia has seen better days and is not a restaurant we would want to return to anytime soon. (Although we didn't try the cocktails during our recent visit, we've nice memories of them from an earlier occasion). ©

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