The Indian Grocery Store (IG) is an eponymously-named establishment in Fort Myers, Florida that sells Indian groceries. They have been in the area sixteen years and only started serving meals one year ago.
I had heard about them serving Indian food on Friday and Saturday afternoons and evenings from their kitchen in the back of the restaurant. Always looking for novel dining experiences, my dining companion and I decided to take a peek.
As you walk into Indian Grocery, you are presented with a typical ethnic grocery store. The real magic begins as you head into the dining area in the back of this establishment on a Friday or Saturday afternoon or evening. This is where IG’s restaurant,Tiku’s Kitchen, is located.
Appearances are deceiving, and as my grandmother told me at a very young age, “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover”. No matter how hard I try to dismiss grandmother, she was usually spot on. I had a feeling the customers here were regular devotees of IG. There are only six tables seating around twenty four diners. A wait is a possibility.
Dining companion and I sat down, and perused IG’s menu.
The food at IG is mostly vegetarian or vegan. Fortunately, they had a binder that had pictures of their menu items and descriptions for those such as us very much unfamiliar with this type of cuisine. After some research post hoc on our menu choices, all of the following dishes are well known street and/or snack foods in India.
The first menu item was the Pav Bhaji. This is popular Indian street food. Pav is bread and Bhaji is a vegetable dish in India.
The bhaji here is a potato-based curry with coriander in addition to a chopped onion and citrus garnish. The pav (bread) is heavily buttered. This was a really good dish and had us wanting to try more of these novel (to us) and interesting menu items.
Somosa chat (chaat) is another street/snack disk popular in Indian culture. Somosas are pastries stuffed (at IG) with mashed, boiled potato, onion, green peas and chilis with other spices, then fried. Somosa chaat are somosas served with a “stew” of tomatoes, onions and topped with noodles and hot and sweet chutney such as green and tamarind, respectively. It was really good and highly recommended.
Being unfamiliar with this this dish, “the chat” at table side was why somosas would be added to a stew. Besides being very flavorful, it is a really good way to use up any left over somosas from previous meals.
Bhel Puri was next, another popular snack food. This really is a type of chaat, the common ingredient in chaat being some type of fried dough. This dish is made from puffed rice and sev, which are crunchy noodles made from chick pea flour and spiced with things such as turmeric and cayenne. At IG, these base layers are topped with boiled potato, onions, chaat masala, an Indian spice mixture, and hot and sweet chutneys. The complex interplay of spices and textures was very intriguing and at the same time, delicious. Highly recommended. I thought of this as Rice Krispies meets Bollywood, a perfect snack while watching a movie.
We finished with Dahi Vada. Another type of chaat, this dish is prepared by soaking fried flour balls (dumplings) in yogurt. The dumplings are made from ground black gram beans known as urad daal. It was mixed again with sweet and hot chutneys, and red chili powder. It was our least favorite of the evening, but still good. Remarkably, there are records of this dish in old Indian writings from the twelfth century. It it “aint” broke don’t fix it!
IG also served some very interesting Shakes and Smoothies, all made to order, and served every day. Mango, custard apple and soursop shakes got my attention, but we were much too full after all this great food. The food at IG was also very reasonably priced, our bill with two waters totaling $25.00. This was really enough food for three or four diners.
What struck me was our bill, I don’t think it gets any more local than this. You are charged for your food when you bring this to the register at the front of the store.
All in all this is a very local, unique and tasty dining experience. I cannot wait to go back and try more menu items.