THUNDER BAY -- There’s a new ethnic restaurant on Red River Road and it has a lot of people excited. Krushi’s Indian Bistro, which opened this past summer, occupies the space vacated by Sushi Bowl.
Abhinav Korrapati arrived in Thunder Bay as a student in 2012, and at the time, he only knew 30 or 40 fellow students from his country. After graduating in 2015, he moved to Terrace Bay to work at the pulp mill there. His wife, Pavani Sai Kode, was interested in the food business, and last year, the couple started a small restaurant in Terrace Bay, That Tasty. Besides the other Indian families in Terrace Bay, the new restaurant attracted a number of students from Thunder Bay.
“They were not getting South Indian food in Thunder Bay,” Korrapati explains. “13, 14 students would come on the weekends, two cars full of people.” The couple figured that if some are willing to drive more than 400 kilometres round trip to eat food that reminds them of home, a South Indian restaurant should find success in Thunder Bay.
Korrapati teamed up with his friend Anvesh Pallabhatla to open Krushi’s Indian Bistro. The restaurant opened in July, initially attracting mostly Indian students, but soon found a broader audience. Indians now make up only 30 per cent of the restaurant’s clientele.
The restaurant specializes in South Indian cuisine, which, outside of India, is far less common than North Indian cuisines. The menu boasts dishes such as dosa (crepes) and idli (steamed rice cakes) and chicken dum biryani from Korrapati’s hometown Hyderabad.
Indian Bistro offers some original items as well. Butter chicken pizza (or paneer pizza for vegetarians) and butter chicken poutine were put on the menu as an experiment, but they have proven popular and are here to stay.
Despite its proximity to Masala Grille and another newly opened Indian restaurant, Deccan Spice (as well as Famous Tandoor, a Pakistani takeout place), Korrapati is not worried. “I would even say that there is potential for one more Indian restaurant,” he says. “The Indian student population is increasing, and we are not like Monsoon or Masala Grille. The menus are different.”
With a view to serving Thunder Bay’s hungry students, Indian Bistro started a meal plan, where subscribers get a takeout-meal six days a week for $225 per month. They currently have 54 subscriptions, most of them repeat customers.
Getting a liquor license is the next step, Korrapati says, but he doesn’t want to rush. “I don’t want to compromise on quality, food safety or customer service. So we’ll take things slowly.”