dining

BLOOMINGTON — When Krishnamohan Seshadri moved to Bloomington from India 17 years ago, he never imagined he'd be shopping in an Indian supermarket.

"We had a very limited availability at that time. We had to go to Peoria. Sometimes we even went to Devon (Avenue) in the Chicago area to shop at the Indian grocery stores there," he said.

"This is much closer," said Seshadri about the new Namaste Plaza Indian grocery store that recently opened at 908 S. Eldorado Road.

Seshadri also is looking forward to the opening of a restaurant in the store that will feature Indian street food.

Owner Keyur Patel said the installation of a new kitchen and restaurant is nearing completion and expects to open the eatery that can seat up to 40 diners the first week in December.

"There are a lot of people dying to eat the Indian street food," said Patel, adding that the restaurant will feature one of the most popular Indian fast foods — Samosa, a puffed pastry stuffed with peas, lentils, cilantro and spices.

He and his wife, Pinky, used to offer Samosa as a take-out item at their original store, which they opened in 2008 at 704½ S. Eldorado Road.

"We are very famous for the Samosa that we make at the store, and we make it from scratch," said Patel, adding he has customers who drive from Champaign, Springfield and Peoria to pick up orders of Samosa.

The restaurant's name, Swagruha, translates to "you are welcome in my house."

Patel said the store is the second largest Indian grocery store in the Midwest, with the largest located in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg.

Patel purchased the former Hancock Fabrics building because its size enabled him to expand the store's merchandise and add the dine-in restaurant.

"We were running out of space at the other store," he said. "My growth stopped because of the space issue."

The new, 15,000-square-foot store is three times larger than the Patels' original store. The $3 million investment includes store inventory, Keyur Patel added.

About 80 percent of the store's inventory is Indian products, but it also sells Asian, including Korean and Japanese, and African foods.

The store also offers fresh Indian organic foods, including lentils, Moong dal and chickpeas as well as frozen Indian meals that are popular because they can be purchased cheaper at the store than ordering them at a restaurant, said Patel.

Santosh Nistala, a Twin City resident since 2011, said the store reminds him of those where he grew up in southern India.

"There is nothing we don't get here, so it's very much like home away from home," said Nistala, adding the store's size is "massive." 

"There are lots of varieties for everything. We don't have to compromise on any of the brands," he added. "The best thing is these Indian spices because we don't get to have the spicy food whenever we go to the American restaurants."

Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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