Dhaba Wala: Quick, Authentic Indian Dining In Hartford

Bored with that same sandwich or salad? Dhaba Wala, a new Indian restaurant in downtown Hartford, hopes to provide authentic cuisine with quick, convenient service for busy lunchtimes.

"We started to think about how we could make Indian food fast food, and have some control over it, instead of a self-service buffet," says Ankit Harpaldas, who opened the Asylum Street restaurant with his father, Paul, on Sept. 25. The family also owns and operates The Greenway Market on Asylum Street, Capital Spirits on Pratt Street and Taprock Beer Bar & Refuge in Unionville.

Dhaba Wala's lunch options follow a fast-casual counter-service format. The daily offerings include about six entrees, with favorites like chicken tikka masala and curries, along with two varieties of rice and naan and sides of pakora and samosa.

Diners choose from four portion options: $6.99 bowls (one entree and one base of rice, naan or roti, or garlic naan for an extra $1); $7.99 plates (two entree choices and one base); a large plate for $7.99, with one entree, one base and one side and a "bigger plate," with two entrees, one base and one side for $9.50. Goat and lamb entrees are an additional $2; extra sides and beverages, like lassi and chai, are $1 to $3.

Price points are important, says Harpaldas, as a traditional Indian lunch buffet may typically cost $10 to $11.

"We wanted to get something in that $7 to $9 range where people can come and go," he says. "People have really enjoyed it. We've gotten a great response since day one."

Dhaba Wala also offers a full menu of specialties in addition to the weekday lunch options, with soups, appetizers and traditional breads ($1.95 to $8); tandoor-cooked meats ($11.95 to $12.95) and entrees with chicken, fish, shrimp, and lamb. Diners will find classics like tikka masala, vindaloo, korma, biryani and saag, along with more than a dozen vegetarian entrees like aloo gobi, navratan korma and channa masala. A few Indo-Chinese dishes like gobhi Manchurian and chili chicken round out the choices. Entrees are $8.95 to $13.95.

Dhaba Wala's name translates to "hole in the wall," Harpaldas says, and also references a type of courier service, where delivery people bring daily lunches to hundreds of thousands of workers in Mumbai. The restaurant handles many takeout orders and has also partnered with Grubhub and UberEATS for delivery options.

"Downtown can't get enough lunch spots, but it's been even bigger for dinner, which is cool," he says. "We're pretty vested in downtown at this point, so we see firsthand where the demands are now. ... Most people's conception about downtown is that it may feel like a ghost town [in the evening] but if you come in here at 7 or 8 at night, there's a lot of people in here."

Harpaldas says Dhaba Wala may expand its menu, adding additional snacks and authentic South Indian dishes.

DHABA WALA INDIAN KITCHEN is at 49 Asylum St., in Hartford (tucked on the side street formerly known as Old Bank Lane.) It's open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 860-232-1500 and dhabawalahartford.com.

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