The purveyor of Indian eats launched earlier this year, during the pandemic, and delivers on strong flavors
(Somerville Wire) – If you are looking for authentic, Maharashtrian, vegetarian food, look no further than Bombay Brunch. This Somerville based, take-out spot delivers cuisine from the third largest state in India. With Mumbai (Bombay) as this region’s state capital, it features cuisine that is a fusion of traditional, local recipes with inspirations from all over India. You may have seen or sampled some of Bombay Brunch’s offerings at ONCE events in Somerville. Founder and owner Vaishali Kulkarni told us a little bit about the business that she recently launched.
What made you decide to open Bombay Brunch, serving take-out, Maharashtrian, vegetarian food? Have you always been interested in cooking? You opened in April 2021. Was it challenging to open a business during the pandemic?
Imagine experiencing European cuisine only through Italian and Spanish food. Those are great cuisines but then you are missing out on French, German, Polish, or other diverse cuisines.
Each Indian state has a unique culture in terms of dress-code, language, dialects, and food. Indian Restaurants in the USA serve great cuisine but do not represent the full diversity of Indian cuisine. Western Indian cuisine is partially or entirely missing from the scene.
Thanks to my humble farming background, I have been very grateful for the opportunities USA has offered to me and always dreamt about giving something back to the society and the local economy. Feeling of giving back to the society and the local economy was accelerated during the pandemic. My passion for food and the wealth of western Indian cuisine showed me the path. And Bombay Brunch was born in April 2021.
It was a tricky decision to open a new business during the pandemic. Food industry is capital intensive and highly regulated. As an impact of the pandemic, the food industry was hit very hard. Many businesses were shutting down; people started preferring take outs and health conscious alternatives to adapt to changing lifestyle. To support this trend, cloud kitchens and food delivery services were picking up.
I decided to take the plunge and test the waters with the western Indian cuisine by introducing a unique business model which is a combination of ready to eat take out and pre-order food delivery services. It has been a great ride so far.
What are some of your most popular dishes? How do you create them?
Western Indian food offers a large selection of hearty grains, plant-based proteins, vegetables, and superfoods cooked in milder spices. Simultaneously, Bombay—India’s melting pot—has given birth to an incredible variety of delicious street food blending local recipes with the best that immigrants from all over India had to offer.
Bombay Brunch offers menus in four different categories: Bombay Chowpatty or Bombay Street Food, Maharashtrian Snacks and Mini-Meals, Usals or Hearty Plant-based protein curries, and Bhajis or special Maharashtrian stirred or curried vegetables.
Many relate us only to Bombay street food but Bombay Brunch is more about authentic Maharashtrian food which serves your weekday meal needs for healthy and hearty food as well as your weekend cravings.
What is your immigration story like? What was it like to come to a new country and open a business?
Food business is hyperlocal. We have to abide by local rules and regulations. We hire locally, we prepare food locally, and we serve it locally. Many such small businesses together contribute to what we know as a “local economy” and Bombay Brunch is very proud to be one such business.
Like I mentioned earlier, I am very grateful for what Boston and the USA has offered me. Boston has wholeheartedly welcomed me. It gave me lifelong friends, neighbors, and colleagues. My management skills were also groomed locally here at Tufts University. People from Massachusetts are hard working and entrepreneurial in nature. They are willing to give a chance to someone who is willing to take a risk and offer something new.
Opening up a new business has its own quirks but needs determination and unwavering faith in your concept. I am very grateful to Foundation Kitchen and the City of Somerville Health Department. They were patient with me during the process and made sure that I did the right thing.
You’ve collaborated with JJ Gonson of Once and Foundation Kitchen before. What was it like to work with them, and what drew you to them as partners?
Foundation Kitchen—started by a singer-musician husband-wife duo Ciaran Nagle and Tara Novak—has been a savior for food entrepreneurs like me and 20+ other start-ups. It nurtures food startups during the incubation period and helps companies like Bombay Brunch germinate our ideas without breaking the bank through its “Certified-Kitchen-Facility as a service” model. We have seen at least two companies graduate from Foundation into their new brick-and-mortar space since we joined.
Foundation Kitchen values food safety and makes sure that each member embeds it as part of their DNA. Thanks to Foundation Kitchen, we take food safety very seriously and our evolving processes keep becoming safer and safer.
Bombay Brunch was proudly associated with ONCE Somerville—an outdoor music festival series—during Summer 2021. JJ Gonson and her ONCE team were great partners. Mission of ONCE is to responsibly bring the local music-loving community together and this mission has much more significance since the society at large is still struggling to come back to life post-pandemic.
When JJ checked with us for a food vendor opportunity, Bombay Brunch immediately resonated with ONCE Somerville’s mission and decided to serve at their events. JJ and the entire ONCE team were very accommodating and encouraging. I was confident about Bombay Brunch’s potential but was anxious as it is still new to the masses. ONCE Somerville experience gave us an opportunity to reach a diverse population across age groups and ethnicities and gave us confidence that Western Indian Cuisine can appeal to masses.
Do you have any upcoming plans for Bombay Brunch? What’s in store, for the future?
Bombay Brunch is currently a weekend only take-out, delivery service. So far, we have served customers from 15+ Greater Boston towns through our two pickup hubs in Somerville and Lexington. We also provide limited delivery in Somerville, Cambridge, Lexington, and Arlington. My short-term goal is to offer more pickup hubs and take Bombay Brunch closer to my potential customers. There are many long-term plans and the only way to realize them is to stay in business for a couple of years first!
With the ongoing trend towards more pickup and takeout options, I want local cities and towns to officially and proactively allow restaurants to offer a temporary 15-30 min pickup spot in their town. Pickup hub is a place where we can hand over the pre-ordered food to our customers. Unfortunately startup restaurants cannot remain in business by spending 30% fees and commissions to food delivery services.
In store for the future: There is a long list of novel, healthy meal options from the western Indian cuisine which are yet to make an entry on our menu. Goal is to present those delicacies to our customers to enjoy as much as we enjoy making and bringing them to their table.
This article is syndicated by the Somerville Wire municipal news service of the Somerville News Garden project of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.
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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.