Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Bombay Cafe- Broad Street, Athens

The Bombay Cafe is an example of a small independently run ethnic
restaurant. I choose this restaurant because Indian culture, including its
food, interests me and I've never been there. Also from talking to friends I
knew it was a good restaurant and was in my price range.
The Bombay Cafe is located on Broad Street downtown. It's a casual
restaurant with both North and South Indian food. Before going I called the
cafeand talked to the owner about what I was doing. He was very helpful. I
went there on a Saturday night and ordered dinner.
When I walked into the restaurant I noticed two things. First, it was
divided by a long wall, possibly originally meant to separate a smoking and
non-smoking section. Secondly, the restaurant was decorated by a number of
Hindu artifacts and artwork. At the front, next to the menus, was a large
basket of fennel seeds, instead of mints like in many American restaurants.
Also there was a gong with a sign that invited patrons to strike it as they
left as a "thank you". No one did while I was there, but I do not think that
was because they were ungrateful.
The menu was laid out like an American menu with appetizers, soup and
salad, and beverages on one page, South Indian dishes on the next, North
Indian dishes on the next and South Indian on the next, and desserts on the
last page. There was one significant difference. On the page in between
North and South Indian dishes was a page with chutneys, flat breads called
naan, and batsami rices.
The restaurant offered a variety of food, including both North and South
Indian dishes. Although Indians do eat some meat, this particular restaurant
was a vegetarian restaurant and many of the dishes were vegan or could be
prepared vegan. The North Indian foods were mostly curries, which are spicy
dishes (not necessarily hot spicy) of sauces and vegetables. They look
almost like thick soups. Some of them are sweet, like Navantah Koran, and
some are bold or cheesy, like Mutter Panner.
The curry dishes were eaten with flat bread and rice. We used the naan to
scoop up the rice and curries. The chutneys and yogurt dressing called Raita
from South India were eaten the same way. One of the most unique things
about Indian food is popularity of yogurt and chickpeas or garbanzo beans.
Although eaten in other parts of the world, they are not as much of a staple
and do not appear in such a variety of recipes.
There was a smallish crowd of people in their late 20?s and early 30?s. The
people in the restaurant were equally male and female of mixed ethnicities.
They were mostly young professionals and academics. As I stated earlier,
this is a restaurant that caters mostly to vegetarians, so this may be an
indicator of the type of vegetarians in Athens more than anything else.
The cooks were mostly native Indians, and as I don?t speak any Indian
languages, I did not have an opportunity to speak to them. I did talk to the
waitress, who was local. She said the type of people who where there was
pretty typical. She said that the busiest times were weekday lunch rushes
during the academic year, due to the fact that most of the patrons were
academics or worked downtown. She also said that they have a few local
regulars who kept the place open the rest of the time and that groups of
visitors to Athens would keep the place busy during festivals and game days.
I talked to the owner, P.S. about the Bombay Cafe. He is co-owner with his
cousin. The two of them began the restaurant as a Mexican restaurant after
P.S. returned from studying in Bombay. P.S. was familiar with Mexican
restaurants because his father started several in Huston, Texas. However,
there are many in the Athens area, (as well as other Hispanic restaurants)
most run by Hispanic restaurants and their restaurant did not do well. In
fact, I had never heard of it despite having had lived in Athens for 10
Because P.S. and his cousin are Indian and P.S. had studied in Bombay
people began asking them about Indian food. Because their business was not
doing well they began looking for an Indian cook and incorporated Indian
food into their menu (as a trans-national restaurant). Shortly after that,
about 2 1/2 years ago they converted the restaurant to a full Indian menu
and changed the name to the Bombay Cafe.
While I was at the restaurant one of the things I tried was an appetizer
called Dahi Puri. It was a crunchy pastry filled with cold yogurt, garbanzo
beans, and a yellow pastry that tasted like cheese. It was very good and
very different. I liked that it was well balanced, flavorful, and healthy.
I also liked the contrasting textures. It was very smooth and very crunchy.
It was also very cold, but not frozen. It had a unique taste to it that I
really liked.
Going to this restaurant, the Bombay Cafe was a very unique experience that
I rather enjoyed and learned a lot from. I would definitely do it again and
I would recommend it to my friends. The Bombay Restaurant is a nice
moderately priced restaurant in downtown Athens.