I have remarked on my job status before, on working from home and the lack of coworkers. But there is never a time where I miss them more than at lunchtime. Since we have moved to a new place, I have been in search of new restaurants where I can get my favorite foods, that my husband doesn't like, that is. Last week and this week it was: Where to find good Chicken Tikka Masala. That's an indian curry, tomato, delicious dish with chunks of chicken in it. Often served with rice or naan.
Found and tried two places within about 10-15 minutes of home.
First: India Cafe on 377
Cafe was light and bright, modern decor. Full mostly of table and one small stand in the center to place and pick up your order. No fountain drinks. Food arrived promptly and there was a spicy smell in the air that made my eyes sting a bit. A good sign if you like it spicy. Tikka Masala is often less spicy than most of the food commonly thought of as Indian which is in part why I like it. I'm not too big on spicy things, I do not like jalapenos, but I do like this dish. A lot! So I was not really surprised to see that the masala that came out was more red in color than I am used to. Suggesting either more spiciness, more curry or more tomato. The chicken was a little strange since it was in tiny pieces. The "Chicken Tikka" part refers to a different dish where chicken is on sticks and grilled, the "Masala" part is the creamy sauce that they then put the chicken tikka into. So the tiny pieces suggested it was not chicken tikka per se. The presentation was very nice though. The naan was wrapped in foil to keep it warm, and the rice was elegantly plated with a small vegetable salad on the side. That salad was deceiving, it was by far the spiciest thing I have tasted in a while. Rice was OK. Naan was standard. Masala was... well you guessed it. Spicy, but also some how not as flavorful as I have had in the past. Less creamy, less velvety. Much more tomatoey and watery. I took half to go. All in all, it was ok, but not the best I have ever had. And seeing as the next place I tried is closer, I will not be returning.
Second: Sana Indian Restaurant and Grocery
This is the standard hole in the wall shop. In a strip mall, and clearly at one time much smaller. They have expanded their grocery to the next door space and now have a larger eating area. Again no fountain drinks, but a lot of coolers with many options. Also they have coolers with Kulfi (indian ice creams), which I will have to try next time. Again there is a small bar at the back where you place your order. A simple menu, no lunch vs. dinner pricing or anything like that. I again ordered Chicken Tikka Masala since it is my fave. Came with rice or naan, but an extra naan is only $1. Cheaper than the last place for the meal by almost half. The naan was huge and satisfying. The masala was warm with large chunks of chicken that you could see the places where the skewer ran through. Rich and creamy and just a little spicy. Very very good!! I ate it all. I will be back.
This brings me to my point about lunch and coworkers though... Being a girl, a young girl, going to lunch alone is weird enough when you go to McD's, but when you drive into a somewhat empty parking lot and go into a place with a culture clearly not the one you are from, you get some looks. The clientele of both stores seemed to be people who knew the owners or are at least part of that community. Both places seemed to be family run.
It's not to say that it is so strange that I won't go, but it's a bit like going where you are not sure you are wanted. Or the same feeling that you get when going to a comic book store as a girl.