Tarka Indian Kitchen and its unique brand of Fresh + Fast + Flavorful Indian cuisine just opened its fourth location, and the first outside its hometown of Austin, Texas, as it readies for a larger regional expansion.
The award-winning fast casual Indian restaurant recently opened in San Antonio, in the new Trader Joe’s anchored shopping center at 1604 & Sonterra Place.
Tarka serves all the Indian classics, like curries, kabobs, biryanis, and freshly baked flatbreads, along with more modern offerings like their naanini sandwiches. The food is complemented by great specialty drinks like mango lemonade, fresh fruit lassis and select wine and beer.
“San Antonio is a natural progression in our expansion,” said Tinku Saini, one of the restaurant’s founders. “The city is great and doing well economically, and we found the perfect location. It’s also close enough for us to manage effectively while being different enough from Austin in terms of demographics, to prove the model works everywhere.”
Saini said the plan over the next few years is to expand Tarka in its existing markets, while keeping an eye on other promising opportunities in the region.
“With the economy doing as well as it is locally and regionally, finding quality locations can be a challenge,” he added. “That’s why we have to spread a wider net, and be ready to move when something becomes available.”
Tarka’s ideal footprint is 2,700 to 3,000 square feet, preferably an end cap with space for patio seating. The company looks for locations that are in densely populated trade areas with a good mix of employment and residential. Sufficient parking and convenience getting in an out of the center are also key.
“For a fast-casual restaurant, convenience is very important. People have to be able to get in and out quickly, so it is critical that the location has plenty of parking and that it is easy to get from the center to the surrounding areas,” said Saini.
“We find these things to be even more important than visibility because now days, with location based apps and mobile phones, people can find you very easily.”
Tarka’s Average Unit Volume is over $1.8 Million translating into over $600 per square foot in sales, an impressive metric for a fast-casual Indian restaurant that prides itself on value.
Tarka is an Austin original and offshoot of long-time local Indian favorite The Clay Pit.
“We offer a quicker, more casual alternative, without sacrificing quality and freshness,” said Executive Chef Navdeep Singh, who added that everything on the menu is under $10 and delivered to the guest in under 10 minutes.
People can see their meal being cooked from the exhibition kitchen that features a beautiful copper hood. The fresh approach is instilled in the name Tarka, which translates into the sizzle of freshly sautéed ingredients.
“You know that sound you hear when garlic, ginger and other fresh ingredients hit a hot pan? That sizzling sound, that amazing aroma, that’s Tarka,” said Chef Singh.
This fresh approach can also be seen in Tarka’s popular Indian flatbreads.
“Our dough is made fresh in house, everyday, and we bake our bread fresh to order for our guests, so you won’t get fresher bread anywhere,” he added.
“We see a lot of people out there that want to be the next Chipotle for Indian food,” said Chef Singh. “While that can be good and may work for them, our food is freshly prepared with your choice of protein, and spiced to order. We did not want to be limited to just offering Indian burritos or rice bowls assembled with pre-cooked ingredients.”
Unlike the Indian Chipotles of the world, Tarka’s menu is broad enough to capture the amazing variety Indian food has to offer. Saini said the goal was to get as close to a full-service, sit down restaurant menu as possible, while making sure it was manageable enough to produce the food fresh to order, quickly and at a great price point.
“This is what sets Tarka apart and why our restaurants have resonated so well with guests. They get the same quality, freshness and variety they would expect in higher price, full service restaurants, only faster and more affordable, and in a relaxed, casual setting.”
Guests can enjoy Tarka’s healthy Indian cuisine in a modern dining room, which features plush booths, hand blown glass pendants, and photographs of Indian street scenes and food. Vibrant Indian music fills the space. The new location has an expansive patio for al fresco wining and dining.
Don’t have time to enjoy the ambiance? Tarka makes ordering food to go easy. The restaurant offers online and mobile ordering via their website and Facebook page, and even has its own iPhone Ordering App.
And getting takeout is not only easy, it’s environmentally friendly. The restaurant has been recognized as a Green business for their to go containers and commitment to recycling. They were named a WasteSmart Partner by the city of Austin for their use of recycled and compostable packaging, as well as for recycling paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass and plastic. The also recycle their used cooking oil.
Tarka currently has three locations in Austin: South Austin at Hwy 290 and Brodie Lane; North Austin at 2525 West Anderson Lane; and Round Rock, in the Ikea Center at IH-35 and University Blvd.
The new store in San Antonio is located at 427 N Loop 1604 W, in the Sonterra Village Shopping Center, just west of Stone Oak Parkway.
“We have been blown away by the enthusiastic support for Tarka, and many of our guests have been asking us to open in other cities,” said General Manager Rajina Pradhan. “We look forward to sharing our love for Indian food with as many people as we can.”
“The time is right for an Indian restaurant with a national footprint. We want to grow Tarka to that level, alongside places like Panera and Zoe’s,” she said.
Tarka has received many awards since the opening of its original location in 2009. In 2012, Austin Chronicle readers voted Tarka #14 on their Favorite Restaurant List. They have been named Runner Up Best Indian Restaurant ever since they opened, second only to sister restaurant Clay Pit. The Austin Chronicle also honored Tarka as most successful spin-off in 2010 and Best Takeout in 2011 and 2012.
For more information, visit their website at www.tarkaindiankitchen.com or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tarkaindiankitchen, or check them out on any major social media platform, including Twitter, Yelp, Google+, Trip Advisor, Urbanspoon, Foursquare, Instagram & Pinterest.
Contact for further information:
Tarka Indian Kitchen
Sources & Links:
Austin Chronicle Awards:
Link to a YouTube Video about Tarka: