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INDIAN RESTAURANTS IN THE USA - May 12, 2003

 

I have been going to the Valley Forge Historical Park pretty regularly since last September. I have seen it in all it's colors and moods. Fall, winter and spring. It has always been an interesting place to visit. Since it is warm again, the deer are back in huge numbers. It is mid spring now, so the grass is lush green, and the trees have more blossoms than leaves. I clicked this picture yesterday afternoon, right after a very satisfying lunch at the Uduppi Dosa House.

 

Although I have lunch everyday, this one deserves a special mention. First of all, I drove 40 minutes to get to this place. What's more. I even paid toll on the turnpike!! This lunch really meant so much to me! Why? Because I am not sure, when I will get to taste south Indian cuisine again. Although there are a good number of Indian restaurants in the US, only a very small fraction of those serve south Indian food. Blacksburg, for instance, has a pretty decent Indian restaurant that serves only Punjabi style food. To get good Idlies and Dosas, I will have to drive, a good four hours, to Washington D.C.

 

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If you have been to one Indian restaurant in the US, you have been to all of them. Although this observation is really true for the north Indian style restaurants, many "southie" places fall into this category easily. Even otherwise, the south Indian restaurants are a small minority and won't shift the median all that much.

 

All Indian restaurants have very strong ties with India of course. And that shows in their names itself.  References to "India", "Jaipur", "Bombay", "Madras" and "Taj Mahal" are very common. Then there are the ones with names from the Mughal vocabulary; "Minar", "Nawaab", "Darbaar" and of course, "Mughal". But these similarities make absolute sense. What surprises me, are the colors chosen to paint these on name boards. Dark brown on a cream background. Always.

 

Once you enter a restaurant, more clichés come to light. Every Indian restaurant (and I am not exaggerating), seems to have the same kind of chairs! The exact same model in fact! Notice this the next time you go to one. 

 

Every restaurant has multiple wall paintings, depicting belly dancing in the royal court, in some form or the other. I am sure if you look closely, half of them will turn out to be duplicates. There is invariably a tabla or a sitar mounted on the walls. Again, these things are understandable. But what puzzles me, is the fact that all Indian restaurants play the same music, round the clock. 

 

I am pretty sure there is some place, either here in the US, or back home in India, where you can get an "Indian Restaurant Starter's Kit", with the following contents.

 

:: Hindi to English translation guide for cookery. (Example: Boondi Raita = Lentil Crispies in Yogurt)

:: Nameste Girl Seal. Put it anywhere. Menu card, Logo, Paper towels ... 

:: Exhaustive collection of four Indian paintings. The Dancer, The Elephant, The Dancer and The Elephant, The Elephant and The Dancer.

:: Golden Oldies - Instrumental, 3 CD pack. Collectors copy.

:: One sitar and one tabla (1 piece or 2 piece, customizable).

 

 

 

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