Indian food, fast: New restaurants feed curry cravings on the quick

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Rasesh Patel opened Chutney's Indian Diner and Bar at 918 Massachusetts St. in February. The fast-casual Indian restaurant serves dishes including the ones pictured: Tandoori Chicken Bites appetizer, Chicken Tikka Masala and Dal, a vegetarian dish made with lentils. Entrees come with naan and rice and a choice of five chutneys.

The Indian food scene along Massachusetts Street isn’t just heating up — it’s speeding up.

Downtown Lawrence diners now have four restaurants to satiate their Indian cravings, and the three newest are fast-casual or carryout concepts.

The latest addition, Chutney’s Indian Diner and Bar, 918 Massachusetts St., features Indian staples such as chicken tikka masala, vegetarian spinach paneer, samosas and mango lassi ordered at the counter and eaten at tables, or carried out.

Owner Rasesh Patel said he’d heard of similar fast-casual Indian restaurants taking hold in metropolitan areas like New York City.

“I figured, why not for Lawrence?” he said.

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Some of the offerings at Chutney's Indian Diner and Bar, 918 Massachusetts St. Pictured are the Tandoori Chicken Bites appetizer (in back), Chicken Tikka Masala (center) and Dal (right), a vegetarian dish made with lentils. Entrees come with naan, rice and a choice of five chutneys.

Chutney’s

As it has for years, India Palace, 129 E. 10th St., still offers an extensive menu of lamb, chicken, seafood, beef and vegetarian items in a sit-down atmosphere. India Palace is also locally renowned for its lunchtime Indian buffet.

Patel said Chutney’s aims to serve diners looking for a different Indian food experience, one with quicker service, a more casual atmosphere and less-expensive entrees.

Another thing sets his restaurant apart from others, Patel said. Instead of using ghee, or clarified butter, and cream as in traditional Indian food preparation, Chutney’s uses convection cooking and meats’ natural juices.

“We wanted to do more healthy cooking,” he said. Nutritional information for all menu items is posted online at chutneyslks.com.

Patel grew up in Chicago eating native food his mother prepared.

Indian food was a natural choice for his business, he said. He worked on his plan with help from the Kansas University Small Business Development Center, which provided market research indicating healthier options and fast-casual restaurant concepts were in demand.

Chutney’s offers about a dozen entrees ranging from $5.99 to $9.99, with the option to add a smaller portion of a second entree for a few dollars extra. There’s also family-style portions of the same entrees plus naan wraps, appetizers like samosa chaat — a smashed samosa with garbanzo masala — and a couple of desserts.

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Amrutha Ravikumar, Lawrence, owns Cosmos Indian Store at 734 Massachusetts St.

Cosmos

Cosmos Indian Store, 734 Massachusetts St., set up a few tables by the front window and started serving hot food in January.

Offerings include poori (fried flat bread) with potato masala, idli (steamed rice cakes), uthappam (a thick pancake with toppings cooked into the batter) with sambhar (vegetable stew), chicken curry and Cosmos’ popular vegetable korma, owner Amrutha Ravikumar said. Fried snacks such as samosa, vada and pakora also are fan favorites.

Ravikumar said the restaurant tries to give equal prominence to both North and South Indian dishes. They also offer daily kids meals for $3.99 and take group or catering orders.

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Sammi Sangam's Curry in a Hurry is one part Indian food destination and one part convenience store. It's located just across from the Douglas County Courthouse at 1111 Mass.

Curry in a Hurry

Curry in a Hurry, 1111 Massachusetts St., has one table, but most people grab their tikka masala and go.

Inside, warmers are loaded with ready-to-eat portions of peas and potato curry, chicken curry, two kinds of tikka masala, lemon rice and appetizers such as palak pakoda (spinach and onion fritters) and mini dosa (potato curry-filled crepes). Owner Sammi Sangam also regularly makes biryani, a layered meat and rice dish his native city of Hyderabad, in south India, is famous for.

Sangam first started selling hot Indian food to go at the Shell gas station at 17th and Massachusetts streets, which he owned. It gained a following, and after selling the station he reopened his Indian food-and-convenience store concept — without the gas — at its current location in 2011.

KU senior Valentino Moreno walked in for his usual chicken curry on a recent afternoon.

“It’s very good,” Moreno said. “It’s very convenient, and ... when I’m in a hurry it’s great.”

Comments

none2 1 year, 5 months ago

I think it is great that there are more options. It is too bad that there isn't another Indian buffet just to see what their selection might be. I did enjoy when there was a second Indian Buffet at 15th and Kasold in that corner shopping center. I guess people just didn't like going to a location other than downtown as that restaurant eventually had to close from not enough business which was too bad.. The owner was a great guy. He actually gave people tours of his kitchen just so you knew what was behind all the preparation.

Even though having these new places with Indian food is great for the added choices for those of us who love Indian food, I cannot imagine going anywhere other than India Palace. Nothing beats a buffet as you don't have to wait for the food preparation, it is already out there. The only time involved is the time to get seated which doesn't take long unless you go during the lunch rush. Plus you get to eat as much or as little as you want. Not only does the India Palace have great food, but they have great tea!

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sandrat7 1 year, 5 months ago

I agree, but the price is really too much, especially if you do not eat much. I would love to go, but cannot afford it. Sammy's Curry in a Hurry is good, I enjoy his food on occasion. Reasonably priced, good food. I look forward to trying the new places!

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PeriMac 1 year, 5 months ago

I'm going to try each restaurant once a week to get a good feel! I love the Indian Palace but not everyone can make it in time to their open buffets or some may have to budget accordingly. Besides that, it's great to have these additional restaurant options that have their own signature vibe, ambiance, etc when it comes to Indian food. As long they're good, every single restaurant mentioned here will get my support.

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Kay Pettit 1 year, 5 months ago

I got hooked on Chai earlier this year. I have tried Chai at every coffee house and Indian restaurant around town. Most serve warm milk with a pre-made syrup. However, Varcia at Curry in a Hurry makes real Chai that is delicious! It is not too sweet and it is full of flavor and all of those lovely Indian spices. I crave it. You can pay $3.50 for a syrup Chai at Starbucks or get the real thing at Curry in a Hurry for $2.00! They don't have a drive through, but I will park and walk for that Chai!

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WhiteDog 1 year, 5 months ago

Curry in a Hurry is da bomb. Love that place and its very friendly owners.

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Hawkanator 1 year, 5 months ago

Curry in a Hurry is GREAT! Sammi is such a pleasant person!!

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emu 1 year, 5 months ago

It's especially cool that an array of goodies from the south of India is available in Lawrence. Southern Indian food is pretty scarce in the United States, where almost every Indian restaurant offers the same northern standards so many of us have grown to love: chicken tikka, saag paneer, tandoori-grilled meats, butter chicken, etc. Indian food is highly regionalized, and it's different in every part of the country.

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