Rows upon rows of twinkling string and tea lights, plates overflowing with fried snacks and silver-tinted sweets, boisterous family-and-friends get-togethers filled with card games and laughter—Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is all about big celebrations with your loved ones.
Celebrated primarily in South Asia (and in parts of the world with a big diaspora), Diwali marks the day lord Ram returned home after defeating the demon Ravan. Symbolically, though, it’s all about celebrating the triumph of good over evil—and what that really boils down to in practice is getting together with family and friends over a massive feast.
Naturally, you can get in on some of that action thanks to NYC’s rich Indian restaurant scene. Read on for five restaurants where you can celebrate Diwali this year, starting the second week of November and culminating with the main event on November 12.
SONA (Flatiron District)
Diwali restaurant celebrations don’t get much bigger in the city than the one at Flatiron hotspot SONA, which kickstarted festivities on October 23, decking out the entrance and interiors with rows of orange marigold garlands. The Queer Diwali Ball on November 9, a night full of drag performances and music, is a standout and unlike anything else in New York. “I keep thinking about ways that we can fill this space with joy and happiness, and we want everyone to feel like they’re at home,” owner Maneesh Goyal says. Plus, SONA is keeping the party kicking through November 20 with a tasting-menu board where diners can choose from classics like Kerala prawn curry, creamy paneer lababdar (paneer in a cashew sauce), rajma makhani (kidney beans in buttery, tomatoey gravy), and more.
Raan, the spice-packed whole roasted leg of lamb that’s a centerpiece of many a celebratory meal in South Asia, is in the spotlight for Diwali at GupShup. Restaurateur Jimmy Rizvi’s Gramercy favorite will serve the dish starting November 6 through the end of Diwali on November 12. Silky galouti kabab (also lamb) and lightly charred paneer tikka are also part of the Diwali specials. Bonus: GupShup turns five on November 11, and the restaurant is marking its birthday with $5 butter chicken for all. For even more of GupShup’s Indian food with New American flair, consider heading to the James Beard Foundation on November 10 for a Diwali tasting menu of dishes like venison kabab with crab and shrimp mousse.
Indian Accent (Midtown)
Acclaimed chef Manish Mehrotra’s heralded special-occasions spot has consistently dazzled with its inventive Indian fare—and things are no different for Diwali. Expect a showstopping brunch on November 12 with dishes like creamy burrata chaat with crispy lotus-root stems and sago-flour pancakes with a dollop of housemade butter.
Paisley is all about celebrating the breadth of regional Indian cooking, so it’s only natural that owner Juthika Bedi has created a Diwali feast that’s all about embracing this diversity. North Indian-inspired butter chicken sliders are just as at home among the Diwali specials as is a coconutty Goan prawn curry that comes from the Western Indian state it shares a name with. Try them all weekend long at Paisley.
One of New York’s newest Indian restaurants is going all out with a dance-filled Diwali weekend in Tribeca. Expect two back-to-back nights of Bollywood and Bhangra tunes coupled with a DJ and a photo booth on November 10 and 11. If that’s not your jam, Goa still has you covered. Chef Hemant Bhagwani is serving a four-course Diwali menu all-week long (November 7 to 12) with dishes like fire golgappa (potato-stuffed fried dough balls that arrive at the table literally on fire), charcoal-grilled butter chicken, and fragrant Burmese khow suey (a popular dish in India).
Tanay Warerkar is OpenTable’s New York writer and a content marketing manager.