Pakwan Restaurant: Pakistani Indian in San Francisco

Dinner at Pakwan Restaurant on O'Farrell Street in San Francisco, California
Dinner at Pakwan Restaurant on O’Farrell Street in San Francisco, California

Pakwan is a Pakistani Indian restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area, known for blends of Indian spices and traditional cooking techniques. When it opened in 1991, its mission was to use authentic recipes from the Indian subcontinent.

Thanks to their tireless efforts and devotion, Pakwan swiftly gained a reputation as the go-to destination for authentic and traditional Pakistani Indian cuisine in the Bay Area. The restaurant attracts locals, tourists, families, and business workers alike.

Today, Pakwan operates five restaurants in the Bay Area. There are three locations in San Francisco and another two in the East Bay in Fremont and Hayward.

On my recent visit to San Francisco, I stopped by their location on O’Farrell Street, not far from Union Square.

Interior of Pakwan Restaurant

Open interior of the restaurant
Open interior of the restaurant

As soon as I walked in, the aroma of grilled meats and vegetables hit me, making me even hungrier than before.

It was busy for a Monday night and there were customers at every table. With the restaurant so packed and the aromas filling the air, I was excited to try the food.

Despite the dark painted walls and ceilings, the space felt bright and open thanks to its high ceilings, large windows, and ample lighting in the open dining room.

While the décor was basic, it was clear to me that the true highlight of the experience would be the food.

Although I visited at night, the restaurant’s corner location would allow for plenty of natural light during the day.

Open interior
Open interior

Although I wouldn’t describe the atmosphere as lively, I could hear sounds from the open kitchen on the far side of the dining room. And, in the background, music was playing softly.

Pakwan Restaurant Menu

The first page of the menu at Pakwan Restaurant, San Francisco, California
The first page of the menu at Pakwan Restaurant

What surprised me the most about Pakwan was their menu’s sheer number of items. Whether you wanted meat, vegetarian dishes, or sides, there was something for everyone.

For those with dietary restrictions, look for menu items marked Gluten-Free (GF), Dairy-Free (DF), Vegetarian, or Vegan.

On the first page of the Pakwan menu, you will find various options such as appetizers, vegetarian dishes, chicken dishes, biryani, and meat dishes with lamb, beef, and goat.

The second page of the menu
The second page of the menu

On the second page of the Pakwan menu, you’ll find tandoori (BBQ) items, wraps, sides, desserts, and naan. For drinks, your options include a mango-yogurt-milk drink, chai tea, soda, and bottled water.

If you have trouble reading the menu above, you can view the full menu at


Green Chutney and Tamarind Chutney
Green Chutney and Tamarind Chutney

The small fridge near the cashier, which was easy to miss, contained bottles of green chutney and tamarind chutney. Chutney is a condiment that originated in India. People use chutney as a dipping sauce or accompaniment to main dishes, appetizers, or snacks.

The green chutney at Pakwan was simple yet bursting with flavor. It was creamy, bright, and refreshing and had a slight kick of heat, possibly from jalapenos.

I could taste the freshness of cilantro and mint. There was also some yogurt and lime in it. This stuff was so good that I could have drank it out of the bottle.

The other bottle was a tamarind chutney, which had an unfamiliar taste. This chutney had a thicker consistency than the green chutney. Its flavor was sweet and sour, with a fruity and tangy aftertaste.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala, Pakwan Restaurant, San Francisco, California
Chicken Tikka Masala

Although the menu offered several appealing options, some of which I have never tried, I ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala ($12.99).

This popular dish has Indian and British origins. It consists of boneless white chicken meat cooked in a creamy tomato-based sauce with a blend of spices.

Due to its history of colonization, one of the most iconic dishes in the United Kingdom is Chicken Tikka Masala.

The tikka masala sauce served at Pakwan had a thick consistency similar to gravy. It had a distinct, salty, and rich curry flavor. I don’t know everything that went into the tomato-based sauce, but if I had to guess, I would say garam masala, cumin, and turmeric.

The sauce contained boneless chicken breast pieces of varying sizes, some larger and some smaller. I expected grilled chicken, but this was different.

It seemed the chicken had been cooked in the stew until it almost fell apart, yet still retained its texture. Although not the most succulent chicken, it wasn’t overly dry either. While the chicken’s flavor was simple, it paired well with the sauce.

Although the dish looked unassuming and the chicken was slightly overcooked, I still enjoyed the rich and tangy flavors of the sauce. The Chicken Tikka Masala is an excellent choice if you are seeking a simple yet familiar dish.

Garlic Naan

Garlic Naan, Pakwan Restaurant, San Francisco, California
Garlic Naan

There’s no better pairing for Chicken Tikka Masala than naan. Naan is a popular type of flatbread in Indian cuisine, often made with flour and baked in a tandoor oven.

Although the menu offered several variations of naan, I opted for the Garlic Naan ($3.49) made with fresh garlic and parsley.

After being prepared fresh and cooked in a tandoor oven, the naan had a crispy, charred exterior with air bubbles, reminding me of thin-crust pizza. The interior of the flatbread remained soft and chewy with a smoky flavor from the oven.

Topping the naan was minced garlic and a few pieces of parsley. The garlic provided a spicy kick that I enjoyed.

But, being a fan of garlic, I wanted more. The sparse parsley complemented the garlic while adding a pop of color.

On its own, the naan was simple yet fresh, with its garlicky flavor and soft, chewy texture. The naan was best when I ripped off a piece and dipped it into the rich Chicken Tikka Masala sauce.

Regardless of which dishes you order, I recommend ordering naan, as it pairs well with almost every item on the menu.

Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice, Pakwan Restaurant, San Francisco, California
Basmati Rice

For my final dish, I chose the Basmati Rice ($3.99), freshly prepared and lightly seasoned with cumin.

As you can tell from the picture, the rice was simple. But, it was well cooked and moist. Unfortunately, even with the addition of sliced vegetables, the rice was not as flavorful and aromatic as I had hoped.

Like the naan, the rice was plain but tasted much better when mixed with the Chicken Tikka Masala sauce. The long grains of the basmati rice absorbed the sauce, enhancing its overall flavor and elevating the dish.

So, if you are looking for an affordable and filling side dish that pairs well with any item on the menu, then basmati rice is an excellent option


With a fast-casual dining concept, customers place orders at the cashier and wait for their names to be called out to receive their food. Therefore, I had limited interactions with the restaurant staff.

Despite the limited interaction, the friendly cashier provided menu recommendations and answered my questions about their sauces.

While the cashier and chefs in the kitchen worked diligently, table cleaning was not a priority on my visit. Many tables were left with dirty plates long after customers finished their meals.

While this was not a problem for me, it could be an issue with limited tables.


Pakwan Restaurant wasn’t originally on my list of places to try in San Francisco. But I’m glad I stumbled upon this fast-casual Pakistani Indian spot after visiting a nearby bar.

Pakistani and Indian cuisine is relatively new to me. Its unique flavors brought back memories of my travels to Turkey and the Mediterranean.

Although a fast-casual restaurant, Pakwan’s food was anything but ordinary. Dishes used fresh and flavorful ingredients prepared with love.

The Chicken Tikka Masala was rich with a distinct curry flavor. The freshly baked garlic naan was bursting with garlicky goodness. And the basmati rice brought all the dishes together.

Despite my limited knowledge of Pakistani and Indian cuisine, discovering Pakwan Restaurant was a pleasant surprise. And I would not hesitate to return on my next visit to San Francisco.


  • Extensive menu
  • Fresh and flavorful dishes
  • Open late
  • Friendly service


  • Basic décor
  • Table cleaning was not a priority
  • Chicken slightly overcooked


Monday-Sunday: 11:00AM-11:00PM


501 O'Farrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA
GPS Coordinates: 37.78567,-122.41319



Last Updated on March 23, 2024

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My name is Anthony and I am addicted to traveling all around the world experiencing new people, cultures, and foods. These are some of my stories.