#78 of 23 Asheville Restaurants

Mela Indian

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Mela Indian: Serving Up Sophistication And Spice
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Asheville's Mela Indian offers a glimpse of everything that makes the culture and cooking of India so unique and flavorful. With a menu featuring a variety of vegan and gluten-free options, Mela is a welcoming spot for every type of diner.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

The word “Mela” is Hindi for “coming together,” which is fitting when you consider just how cohesive the Asheville restaurant’s menu really is. Anyone with an adventurous appetite and the willingness to try something different will surely fall in love with one of the many dishes on offer. From the deep-fried chicken pakoras to the various tandoori and masala options, Mela’s menu is handpicked to showcase the best of Indian cuisine.

While Mela prides itself as a sophisticated dinner spot, it also caters to the lunch patron with a large appetite. Spend your lunch break at Mela’s buffet and sample a variety of authentic offerings such as made-from-scratch naan, hormone-free chicken, and a rotating menu of vegetarian dishes. Mela uses only the finest ingredients, as you’ll quickly observe while hitting up the buffet.

Parents looking to expose their children to something better than your typical drive-through joints will be happy to know that Mela’s kids’ menu provides unique Indian options without being too intimidating to young palates. Encourage young visitors to try the lentil stew or the naan stuffed with paneer cheese. Thankfully, if they are simply too fussy to try something new, there’s also a childhood staple on the menu: chicken nuggets served with rice.

As an adult visitor, be sure to browse the extensive drink menu, recently revamped with your favorite local beers as well as India- inspired brews such as Kingfisher and Taj Mahal. The restaurant also boasts an excellent tea selection.

No matter what you order, you’ll appreciate the spacious feel of the restaurant, which delivers a sunny, vibrant atmosphere even on rainy days. Visit at the right time and you may encounter live music from local talent.

A few of our favorite menu items include:

Vegetable Samosa
There’s no better way to begin your Mela dining experience than with this classic starter, offering flaky and delicious samosas packed with a spicy mix of potatoes and green peas. Ensconced in tamarind and homemade mint chutney, this dish is great as an appetizer —but also more than capable of holding its own as a meal.

Chicken Tikka Masala
A staple of any Indian menu, Mela’s chicken tikka masala comes smothered in a one-of-a-kind sauce with just the right amount of kick. The star of the dish is the boneless, marinated chicken breast, which is simmered to perfection and sure to become one of your favorite Indian offerings.

Lamb Vindaloo
You can’t call yourself a lover of Indian food without possessing a certain tolerance for spice. While you may initially be hesitant to try the lamb vindaloo, your reservations will quickly vanish as soon as you dig into the moist and flavorful boneless lamb that serves as the main attraction.

Tandoori Chicken
Lunch buffet patrons flock to Mela’s tandoori chicken. Thankfully, it’s available as its own menu item for diners who can’t make it out during the lunch rush. Mela’s tandoor oven gives this chicken a smoky, earthy flavor that sets it apart from typical Asheville chicken offerings.

Insider Tips
Mondays may be a drag, but Mela’s staff members try their best to make the beginning of the week a little less mundane. Stop in for Veggie Monday, featuring specials on vegetarian entrees.

You may want to consider calling ahead to make a reservation, as the restaurant is a popular spot on Friday and Saturday evenings. Parking can be an issue — a common conundrum in Asheville. A parking lot is located conveniently across the street, but you may find better deals at nearby ramps if you’re willing to walk a few blocks.