India Cafe opened in March in the back of the Foods of India grocery store on Broadway, tucked away behind a big wall of Bollywood DVDs.
When Sapan Goel opened Foods of India thirteen years ago, he installed a small kitchen in the back room, figuring he could rent it out. People did try to operate restaurants out of the space, but none lasted more than a couple years. More problematic, each chef had differing tastes and abilities, which meant diners never knew what to expect.#PAGEBREAK#Most didn’t come back–and Goel says the store lost customers because of that.
Goel’s confident that this time it’s going to work, thanks to the energy and talent of his newest tenant, Kamal Rajput, who opened India Cafe in early March. His menu is more ambitious than previous incarnations, and it specializes in Northern Indian cuisine, especially spicy dishes from the state of Punjab.
Back in India, Rajput was an auto mechanic. But when he came to the United States in 1998, he got a job working in a restaurant kitchen. He says, “I started watching the chefs, learning how they did it.” He’s been cooking for ten years now, most recently at Mahek on Washington. But he wanted to own his own business, and Foods of India seemed the perfect place to start out small: there are only six tables and twelve chairs.
#PAGEBREAK#It’s a family operation. Rajput is the chief cook; his son Mohit, twenty-two, waits on customers and washes dishes; and his wife, Sunita, keeps the operation running smoothly and helps with the cooking. Ranjput says right now 90 percent of their business is takeout. He eventually plans to add delivery, too.
India Cafe, inside Foods of India, 1143 Broadway. 644-1909. Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
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