Residents of Fayetteville who are fans of ethnic cuisine have long lamented the town’s inability to attract an Indian restaurant. We’ve gotten our hopes up about news of openings only to be disappointed when they don’t pan out.
It might have seemed like Khana Indian Grill was going to turn into another one of those sad stories. Announced last summer, the restaurant was planned for the Dickson, in an alley just off Dickson Street, but that plan fell through and little was heard from the owners for months.
But a change in location and timeline did not deter owner Lisa Purkayastha, who, along with her husband Abhijeet, will run the restaurant at 2101 N. College Ave., a building most recently home of Little Guys Movers.
“We’re excited,” she said of the move. “It’s kind of been a long time coming for us.”
To get it out the way, she reports it was “an amicable parting” from the Dickson and that the logistics of putting a restaurant into the planned space “became overwhelming.”
“I have nothing but good things to say about the owners of the Dickson,” she said “It’s only hard [to talk about] in the sense that it was a setback.”
Plans now are to renovate the building on College and be ready to open this fall. The restaurant will be around 2,500 square feet and seat around 75 people.
“It’s got really good bones,” she said of the building. “We don’t have to do too much structurally. Most of what we’re doing is going to be cosmetic,” such as replacing fencing and repainting the building. She said they are about two weeks away from filing permits for the renovation and that architectural plans (by Ozark Modern Architects) are complete.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” she said.
Purkayastha is from Texas and her husband is from Tamil Nadu state in southern India. The two own a leather manufacturing business that’s based in India, and moved to Northwest Arkansas from Houston eight and a half years ago.
Her sister-in-law owns a restaurant in India, and she used to work summers in her aunt’s restaurant, Mrs. Miller’s in Hot Springs, which was in her family since the 1920s and has since closed.
“We come from a foodie culture,” she said, noting that some of the recipes for Khana were inspired by dishes her sister- and mother-in-law make.
She said the plan is for the restaurant to offer fast casual, counter service (no buffet) and provide the “greatest hits” of Indian food in a clean, modern and paired down way. They’ll use classical cooking techniques with spices, tea and coffee that come from India.
The food will be a mix of South Indian and other regions, which can be very different in terms of ingredients, preparation and spices.
Purkayastha said they think of themselves as having “two locals,” working with companies in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in India to procure ingredients, as well as building relationships with local farmers in Arkansas for produce, eggs and meat. They’re also planning a large organic mint bed in front of the restaurant to produce the large quantities of that herb that will be needed for drinks and recipes.
One unique tie to both regions is the plates that will be used. Made from fallen palm leaves, the plates are common in India but not seen much in the states because of their higher expense. What’s great about them, though, is that they are fully compostable in 60 days, so they’re working with local farmers to set up an organic compost program for the restaurant.
“We feel a kinship with Tamil Nadu and the state of Arkansas,” she said.