Here are two facts about the Queen City. One, Charlotte has a thriving and creative Indian expat community. Two, Charlotte entrepreneurs have created a number of successful multi-unit eateries, most notably Bojangles' Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits.
At the confluence of these facts is Adisil Indian Fast Food.
Adisil is a relatively new entry into the burgeoning market of fast casual with owners Logesh Janarthanan and Dharani Shanmugam opening their first shop a year ago in the University area, then adding the Mooresville location. Later this year, they open in Durham, North Carolina, and have two more planned in south Charlotte and Dallas.
Ambitious? Yes, but as Janarthanan notes, Indian cuisine is missing among the fast casual segment of the hospitality industry, a segment in which industry leader Chipotle has an impressive 20 percent annual growth rate.
Adisil is a small shop devoid of the theatrics of a full-scale Indian restaurant. No kitsch. Customers order at the counter, either from the wall menu or by sight, since many dishes reside in the hot food station behind a wall of glass. The cuisine is primarily southern Indian, the birthplace of the owners. South India is the land of basmati rice; wheat and naan are the staples of the cooler north. The South is also the land of Indian snacks, the fast food of the street, called chaat.
Among the snacks on Adisil's roster are the usual suspects: the ubiquitous samosa and a perfectly crisp aloo bonda; a range of bajji (fritters), egg, potato, onion and chili; and medhu vadai, the savory love child of a donut and a hushpuppy.
But Adisil's menu ranges far beyond samosas and steaming hot idlis (rice cakes). On the entrée list are lamb curry, chicken tikka masala in its tomato-based gravy, a flavorful chicken biryani made brilliant with a spritz of lemon and a hard-boiled egg, and perfunctory Chinese-Indian fusion chicken fried rice. Made to order dosas are available, too.
Dishes at Adisil are not spicy. The heat is such that even a novice Indian cuisine eater would not think twice. Janarthanan notes that not being spicy is the intent. Yet there is nothing ho hum about this food — especially at these prices. Most entrées with a side — rice, fried cauliflower, chutney, raita, and more — are about six bucks and price bundles add more value. The breads offered include naan; poori, a deep fried puff ball of whole wheat bread; the melt-in-your-mouth parotta, a street food of Southern India made with finely milled maida, a flour akin to a cake flour; and chapatti, a finely ground whole wheat flour. All come in a pair with curry, and cost six bucks.
The chase for the next Chipotle is being played out nationally. Meanwhile the owners of Adisil Indian Fast Food are at work to accommodate a wide range of tastes, keeping low prices, and without compromising their core product.