Krishna Nakka and Kiran Rampa first met as undergraduates in India studying computer science then went their separate ways, winding up in places like Singapore, Sydney, Silicon Valley, and New York City.
When Nakka met his wife, a graduate from Lawrence Tech in Southfield, he decided he liked Michigan, even though it was far colder than his home country. A food lover who had worked in New York City restaurants while earning a master’s degree, he also began to explore opening an Indian restaurant.
When one came up for sale in Farmington Hills in 2017, he called Rampa, then working on the East Coast as a consultant, and invited him to partner in buying it.
“One day, I said, ‘let’s do it,'” Nakka recalls. “We’re starting tomorrow.”
They soon decided they wanted to have a place in Ann Arbor, too. In August, their opportunity arose when Satchel’s BBQ decided to close its satellite location at Liberty and First St.
The men wrote a ten-year business plan, signed a lease, and opened Aroma Indian Cuisine.
While their original place offers table service and a full menu, they’ve adapted this one to the “fast-casual” trend, with a streamlined menu and counter service. All the meat is halal, and there are a number of vegan dishes.
For Ann Arbor, the owners also crafted a selection of Indo-Chinese dishes, featuring some of Aroma’s fourteen different sauces, such as chili, Manchurian (a dark sauce with garlic and soy), and pepper-style.
Diners can expect to see both Nakka and Rampa in the restaurant, rotating between Ann Arbor and Farmington Hills. Their immediate goal is to learn what locals like to eat (lamb dishes are already proving popular). If something doesn’t sell, it will disappear from the menu and be replaced by something they hope Ann Arbor diners will like better.
At opening, public health orders limited Aroma to carryout or delivery. Come summer, the partners plan to turn their small parking lot into an outdoor, lighted patio.
Aroma Indian Cuisine, 211 W. Liberty, (734) 800-4198. Mon., Wed., Thurs., & Sun. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Closed Tues. ‘aromaannarbor.com