Owners of Nawabi Hyderabad House are Enjoying First-Year Success
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Janakiram Vangoor and his wife Swapnasree grew up in the southern part of India, in a city called Hyderabad. Though they have been living in Kentucky for more than 10 years, they had never come across authentic-tasting Indian food until they tasted Hyderabad House. When they learned it was a franchise, they thought it would be a good idea to bring authentic Indian food to the people of Louisville.
With 42 locations nationwide in cities like Nashville, Dallas, Chicago and Columbus, the couple liked the fact that the quality of the food and sauces is uniform across the franchise, as they specialize in authentic, south-Indian specialties.
“It’s consistently good food,” says Vangoor, who opened in March of 2021 in a small, 3,000-square-foot space that’s cozy and comfortable.
Right from the start, the community has welcomed them with open arms.
“The response has been very good,” Vangoor says. “People are liking the food and often tell us, ‘I’m glad you brought the Hyderabad House to town.’”
Their friends initially questioned their decision to open a restaurant in the middle of a global pandemic, but the Vangoors weren’t deterred. In fact, because so many restaurants shuttered as a result of COVID-19, they saw an opportunity to provide a service that many craved during such a difficult period of time.
“Even during the pandemic, people still needed good food,” Vangoor says. “Everyone’s got to eat, and I figure they need to go somewhere, so why not here?”
He says although 20% of restaurants closed, the number of people either going out or ordering takeout was roughly the same.
“We felt confident opening our doors because we could see that there was a demand,” Vangoor says.
Plus, they offered something special that couldn’t be found on the average street corner. After all, it’s not fast food, but rather authentic, gourmet Indian food with flavors that cannot be replicated. Plus, the closest Hyderabad House locations outside of Louisville are in Cincinnati and Indianapolis.
Prior to this endeavor, Vangoor worked in the consulting field for 25 years. Though the restaurant industry is completely different, he insists that his life is about the same.
“My wife and I cook every day at home anyway, so now we just cook on a larger scale,” he says.
The restaurant is famous for a wide variety of biryanis, and customers also love the soups, appetizers, breads and sides. The desserts include Gulab Jamun, which are soft dumplings dipped in rose water and sugar syrup, as well as Rasmalai, including homemade soft milk patties dipped in sweet condensed milk and pistachio.
The eatery’s vegetarian appetizers include deep-fried Gobi, marinated in spicy batter, Masakali, consisting of deep-fried veggies cooked with special aromatic spices, and Karampodi, deep fried and tossed with house-special spices, red chilies and fried garlic.
Non-vegetarian entrees include Gongura Curry, which comes with a bone-in choice of meat cooked with gongura leaves – a South Indian delicacy, and also Tikka Masala, tender boneless choice of meat cooked in a rich tomato sauce, cream and spices. There’s also the Karaikudi Curry, prepared with a choice of meat, sautéed, and cooked with coconut milk and spices in a chettinad style.
They also sell a variety of Indian and local beers as well as wine, scotch and whiskey. Their goal is to provide a wide variety of quality Indian dishes and a fine Indian dining experience to guests, while focusing on their roots.
Though they are enjoying this new chapter of their life (Swapnasree was formerly with Commonwealth Bank), the biggest challenge in this career is keeping up with the high demand on weekends, as famished customers are typically eager to get their order as quickly as possible. When they first opened their doors, the wait time was one hour, but now they have it down to 30 minutes from the time an order is placed.
“Everybody wants food immediately – within minutes – but on weekends, during peak times, the wait is longer,” Vangoor says. “There’s no way around that.”
The seating capacity is 105, although with COVID-19 they have reduced it to 72 and moved tables, to distance customers and make it more spacious. They have also constructed small walls to provide privacy.
The restaurant offers delivery, takeout and curbside pickup. In addition, customers can order from Grubhub and DoorDash. A lot of folks have enjoyed the convenience of online ordering. They also offer catering options. Not surprisingly, a considerable percentage of people opted for takeout during the pandemic. As COVID-19 numbers decline, Vangoor suspects in-person dining will continue to increase.
“The bottom line is simple – if you maintain good, quality food, people will always come,” says Vangoor, who likes getting to know each customer’s tastes and preferences. Some prefer mild, and others medium. As Vangoor points out, there is no standard definition of medium.
“It feels good to give great-tasting food to the people,” he says. “We are happy to provide that service.”
Nawabi Hyderabad House is located at 12412 Shelbyville Road in Louisville. For more information, call 502-405-8788 or visit hhlouisville.com.