Walking into a little Indian place hidden away in a strip mall, I was not sure what to expect. Nonetheless, we opened the door which welcomed us with the chime of a small bell. As we chose a table and sat down, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the table setting was: vibrant yellow napkins and copper dipped silverware. The table cloth was white, and there were copper cups that kept the water so cold that it kind of hurt your teeth when you drank it. Our table setting seemed simple compared to the art and colorful tapestries that hung all over the walls and ceiling.
Almost immediately after sitting down, a woman brought out a large cup of chai that smelled strongly of spices. Very confused, we assumed that this must come with our meal: however, this was not the case. A small, sweet, elderly lady in a pink sweater leaned over and whispered, “Did you order that?” to which I answered no and carried the warm tea cup over to her table. The saucer and tea cup clinked together as I walked and my unsteady hand caused a little to spill over the edge, spoiling the pristine saucer. However, the sweet lady was not bothered by this. She conversed with us a couple more times throughout the meal.
As we sipped on our freezing water, we noticed that there were no menus and the waiter asked us if we were here for the buffet. “Um, I guess so,” we responded. He pointed us to a dimly lit hallway that swirled with the aroma of curries and spices. We ventured into the hallway, grabbed white ceramic plates, and am enthusiastic man in line with us exclaimed, “Everything is delicious! Try it all!” Though we had not said anything, our faces gave away the fact that we were very new to this, despite our efforts to fit in. We began filling our plates with unfamiliar foods much different than the simple southern cuisine that we were used to. There were about three different curries, multiple rice pilafs, variations of lentil dishes, extremely spicy soups, and little falafel looking foods, which we later deemed “deliciously fancy tatter tots.”
Walking out of the dark hallway we joked that our food changed colors with the change in lighting. Our waitress then blessed us with a basket of freshly baked na’an straight from the oven. This quickly became our favorite part of the meal, and we promptly asked for more.
We were delighted with new tastes from new cultures we had longed to experience, but never had. Our rainy Sunday lunch was filled with lots of laughter, the discussion of old memories, and the admiration of all the different types of people that this little restaurant had brought in. As we guessed the life story of the fancily dressed man eating alone in the corner, I found myself grateful for friends and new cultural experiences in the middle of our oh-so-familiar city.