If you desire a trip to India, but are unable to do so, perhaps Taste of India restaurant can fulfill that craving. Opened only a little over a month ago, Taste of India delivers multifarious spices, an authentic atmosphere and foods that reflect the wide, regional diversity of India to serve the Brandon area.

“There have been extremely limited options [for Indian food] outside of [restaurant] chains. It’s an independent business that Brandon needs,” said Jim Guarnieri, a third-time occupant here. With a five-year-old sister restaurant in Melbourne, George Thomas, one of five owners, realized an authentic, fresh-food Indian restaurant was repeatedly requested by customers who received catered dishes. “People drove to Melbourne to get Indian meals,” said Thomas.

Thomas, who received a bachelor’s degree from India in Hotel Management and served as an assistant food manager at Cocoa Beach rose up within the food industry business and craved his own country’s meals. A signature dish, Chicken-65, which consists of crispy, rice-battered, fried chicken with curry leaves and green chiles, was named for a toddy shop, which provides alcoholic beverages, in Kerala, India. A No. 65 toddy shop chef, Thomas one day created a dish in which he dipped chicken in rice flour and then fried it in vegetable oil which turned famous. Thomas’ favorite dish is Malabar Addu Curry- tender goat meat, marinated in mint sauce for five days cooked with potatoes, carrots and coconut. There are vegetarian, seafood, regional and side-dish options for the non-meat eater as well. Gobi Manchurian, a batter-fried cauliflower draped in a spicy sauce of chiles and soy sauce and adorned with tomato, onion, bell pepper, garlic and herbs, is popular, too.

Demographically speaking, Thomas has noticed his customers are wide-ranged in age and ethnicity. “Small catering parties, doctors’ conferences, older crowds and UCF [University of Central Florida] students come here,” said Thomas. UCF has a large Indian student population.

Because India is 83 percent Hindu, figurines of Hindu gods and dried mango leaves hanging above the door adorn the restaurant. When starting a day of business, the mango leaves believe to bring good luck. Seedlings are sprinkled in vases near the door and it is said that a business should grow as tall the seedling.

Thomas believes the 60-customer seating is always nearly full because “we all work as a team and from the heart.”

Taste of India is located at 902 E. Brandon Blvd. Its number is 689-4040 or visit www.tasteofindiafl.us.

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