Visitors at Karara Tandoori & American Grill in Middletown gather around a bar with draft beer, play trivia and order tikka masala with naan.
The restaurant at 15 Mill St. at the former JD’s Junction is not like traditional Indian establishments. Karara, named for the Indian word meaning a “delicious,” meshes a neighborhood bar vibe with an Indian/American menu.
“I didn’t know so many people like Indian food,” said Nicole Houser, a bartender. “People really like it. It’s something different in Middletown.”
The restaurant, which opened a few months ago, is headed by Vinny Mundi, a local businessman who operates 7-Eleven convenience stores in the area. He’s joined by chef/partner Jagdev Singh.
Mundi’s son, Tegh Mundi, said his father knew the owner of JD’s Junction and approached him about taking over the establishment. Tegh Mundi said the family likes Middletown’s small town atmosphere.
“My dad has been established in Middletown for about 15 years. We know a lot of people in the town,” he said. “It’s a small town where everyone knows each other.”
Already the restaurant is receiving positive reviews. One Google reviewer called Karara a “hidden gem,” and another described it as a ‘great place for some good food and chill space.”
The family had no reservations about bringing an Indian restaurant to an area known for pizza shops and meat and potatoes fare. By all accounts, Karara is the first Indian restaurant in Middletown.
That has meant the owners have had to educate some diners about the cuisine.
“When new people come in I break it down and I explain all of the dishes,” Tegh Mundi said.
He said he starts by giving them naan, an Indian flat bread, which usually drives them to order something else. He typically points them to common dishes such as tikka masala, marinated chicken served in a rich, creamy orange colored broth, or butter chicken made with a smooth, yet mildly sweet butter sauce.
Diners also will find plenty to order including curries, biryani and tandoori chicken along with five varieties of naan including garlic. Karara’s menu doesn’t adhere to any one region of India. The menu also fuses Indian and American dishes such as naan pizzas and tandoori wings cooked in a clay oven.
“They taste so different,” Tegh Mundi said. “They come off the bone easily. They are more tender compared to just fried wings.”
To appeal to JD Junction’s former customers, they’ve kept items such as loaded fries, mozzarella sticks, burgers and sandwiches. The restaurant also offers a children’s menu with chicken fingers and pizza.
The restaurant has a patio for outdoor seating and hosts Thursday night trivia. In the near future, Houser said they are considering adding more activities such as karaoke nights.
The restaurant is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 4-9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. Phone is 717-616-8952.