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Spice Waala’s Indian street food going ‘brick and mortar’ on Capitol Hill — UPDATE

(Image: Spice Waala)

If you are tired of “street food” variations of your favorite global cuisine, we cannot help you. You might be a bad person.

Spice Waala, Seattle’s purveyor of “authentic Indian street food,” will be the next mobile venture to put down brick and mortar roots on Capitol Hill.

“This allows us to start bringing to life a lot more Indian street food that we couldn’t do at the markets,” Uttam Mukherjee tells CHS. “Our focus is Indian street food, quick, below $10 price marks, a lot of fresh grilling in front of you.”

It will be a bit of a one for one trade on 15th Ave E where Kanak Cuisine of India has been “temporarily” closed after just over four years of business.

Spice Waala will bring a newer, fresher, but more nostalgic take on Indian food to the small restaurant warren that has been on a bit of a global jaunt in recent years with Indian Kanak and a Middle Eastern joint filling the space in recent years.

“Spice Waala aims to take Indians on a nostalgic journey back home while simultaneously introducing non-Indians to the multitude of authentic Indian flavors,” its creators say.

The restaurant is described as the “passion child” of Dr. Aakanksha Sinha, Asst. Professor of Social Work at Seattle University, and her husband Mukherjee, a brand manager at Procter & Gamble, and now a Capitol Hill restaurateur.

“Having grown up in India, we crave authentic Indian food all the time and dream of bringing these flavors to everyone in America,” they write.

“Community is a big aspect of what we bring to the table,” Mukherjee says. The restaurteurs will be focused on providing a “living wage” not just a minimum wage for its workers and all will be profit sharing members, Mukherjee said.

With a regular presence at markets in Fremont and South Lake Union, Spice Waala has created a following for its kathi rolls filled with chicken, lamb, potato, and cheese, and garnished with its “signature green chutney,” and “wrapped in thin roti.” Other specials like suji ka halwa and chicken dum biryani have also been part of the menu. With a brick and mortar kitchen — and a liquor license — Spice Waala’s menu opportunities will surely expand.

Mukherjee said Spice Waala will stay loyal to its street beginnings but is looking forward to expanding offerings with fried pakoras, samosas, and more specials. To help with the spice, Mukherjee said they will “bring authentic Indian beer to the people of Capitol Hill.”

Spice Waala joins a block with another new 15th Ave E food and drink player after Bites of Bangkok debuted with Thai food and, yes, comedy, in November.

To live up to its community and authenticity goals, the restaurant space needs a significant overhaul. Mukherjee said the work will open up the space and the kitchen and create a more communal seating area. It will be close quarters. “We were operating in a 10′ by 10′ tent so we don’t need a lot of space,” Mukherjee said. The weird lower area at the base of the stairs will also go away to make a new entrance for the Dance Underground studio below. Mukherjee hopes to have the work wrapped up in April.

Its new home on Capitol Hill should give Spice Waala a start on a larger mission around food, business, and community. Part of the draw of 15th Ave E was simply an affordable opportunity. Mukherjee said realtors tell prospective restaurateurs they’ll need at least $300,000 to get started in Seattle. Mukherjee and Sinha were glad to find the opportunity to get the Kanak space from its owners for much less. The goal now is for Mukherjee and Sinha to begin “hiring locally” and, they hope, hiring the types of people that high rents and costs are “pushing out” of the neighborhood.

Spice Waala will open soon at 340 15th Ave E. You can learn more on the Spice Waala Facebook page.

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