India is the second most populous country and the 7th largest country in the world, with a population of over 1.3 billion people. It shares land borders with Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, and is home to a wealth of cultures, cuisines, and traditions that one can spend an entire lifetime getting to know.
But here in LA County, we don’t have to book an international flight to taste the wide-ranging cuisines of India. We can just head southeast on the 91 or 605 freeways to the city of Artesia, where some of the best regional Indian cuisines are represented on a two-mile strip along Pioneer Boulevard.
Artesia’s status as an unofficial “Little India” enclave is relatively recent. After the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the number of Indian immigrants in the US rose from 12,000 to 51,000 by 1970, with many choosing to settle in Los Angeles and Orange County. Previously known as Dairy Valley for its annual Dairy Fair, Artesia was recovering from a farming labor shortage in the late 1960s, and newly arrived Indian immigrants saw opportunity as the inexpensive neighborhood became more business-centric.
In 1971, Balkishan Lahoti started selling Indian spices out of the garage of his Artesia home, perhaps marking the first Indian business in the area. By the 1980s, Pioneer Boulevard had emerged as a hub for numerous Indian- and Middle Eastern-owned businesses, including a branch of State Bank of India in 1988. By the mid-1990s, most of the area’s Middle Eastern businesses had relocated to the Little Arabia enclave in nearby Anaheim, allowing Artesia to evolve into a haven for local Indian communities.
The stretch of Pioneer Boulevard between 183rd and 188th Streets is now home to an assortment of South Asian businesses, ranging from spice and fabric shops to a large sampling of Indian restaurants. Here you’ll find the crispy, crepe-like dosas and coconut milk-based curries that are popular in Southern states, as well as the spice-forward, clay oven-prepared dishes that are common in the North, plus traditional chai and lassi drinks, and plenty of street food-inspired snacks like samosas, vadas, and spiral jalebi desserts.
Smita Vasant, who opened her Indian ice cream parlor Saffron Spot in 2005, says, “I, and the rest of the Indian community feel at home here, we love celebrating and showcasing the foods and cultures of our home country—it’s a home away from home.”
The best way to get to know this district is through a self-guided food tour and with the Diwali holiday coming up on November 4, there’s no better time than the present to start exploring. Here are eight of our favorite spots to get you started: