Monday, January 16, 2012

NaanStop Ready to Go : Opening First Location in Atlanta

NaanStop Express Indian Cuisine is coming to Atlanta to open their first brick and mortar location.  After launching as a food truck in Los Angeles last January, Naan Stop is going non-mobile in opening an actual location right here in metro Atlanta!  Brothers Neal and Samir Idnani were born in Nashville but grew up eating their mother's traditional Indian cuisine, passed down to her from her mother.  Samir graduated from Georgia Tech and later the University of Southern California.  Brother Neal graduated from the University of Chicago, and while both held lucrative jobs in their respective fields of study, they
were reunited over the desire for Indian food like their mom used to make.

The Naanwich is their signature dish, a twist on a homestyle Indian meal. The Nannwich starts with Naan,(Indian flatbread) and is then stuffed with Tandoori chicken, Tandoori Paneer ( an Indian style cheese) flavored turkey kabobs or braised lamb.  The Naanwich is then topped off with your choice of toppings such as sautéed peppers and onions, fresh spinach leaves and a cooling yogurt cilantro chutney.

Samosas and Masala fries, french fries topped with a creamy yet spicy tomato based gravy, round out the menu options that were available when the restaurant was only a food truck.  There are plans to increase the menu offerings when the store opens.

The cool thing about the NaanStop concept will be the planned Naan oven at the front of the restaurant. Fresh Naan bread will not only be used to make sandwiches in store, but will also be available for sale to take home.  Akin to the way Cinnabon or Auntie Anne's  make you crave their product as you watch it being made, NaanStop plans to do the same.

The brothers narrowly missed applying for America's Next Great Restaurant but judging from the disaster that ensued, perhaps that was good luck.  For anyone who didn't watch, and I'm sure there are lot, the NBC reality showed tried to find "America's Next Great Restaurant."  The winning concept was to possess mainstream appeal and be marketable on a franchise level.  The winning concept, Soul Daddy, was said to feature "healthy soul food."  Shorty after the season finale in May, three locations opened simultaneously in Los Angeles at Hollywood & Highland, in New York at South Street Seaport, and in Minneapolis at  the Mall of America.  Just one month after opening, the New York and LA locations were closed so that they could "focus on developing the best restaurant" in the Minneapolis location.  Just two weeks later, it too closed. In an interesting twist though, Jamawn Woods, the creator of  Soul Daddy reached an out of court settlement with ANGR holdings that allowed him to keep the name, recipes and equipment from the New York location.  He now has a new partner in the business and plans to open a new Soul Daddy in his hometown of Detroit later this spring.

Minus the national exposure, the Idnani brothers have done all right.  They have a great name, a healthy and different product and were one of only a handful of the over 300 food trucks in LA to consistently turn a profit.  Additionally, they were featured on numerous TV and radio stations in LA and had quite the Twitter following.  Recently I learned that you might even get a glimpse of the NaanStop truck in an upcoming episode of the hit FOX drama "Bones."

The brothers are taking their time and know that in Atlanta, more than most cities, the perfect location, preferably with ample parking, is essential.  They served their last Naanwich via their truck on November 30th and had hoped to be open here by March.  Now, without what they feel is the perfect location, they are perfecting their menu and keeping an eye out for their first location.

Personally, I'm a big fan of both middle eastern and Indian cuisine, and this Naanwich sounds pretty darn tasty.   Additionally, kudos to the brothers for coming to Atlanta to launch the concept. Looks like Atlanta's attracting more than movies from Hollywood, now even restaurants!

The plan is to have the first NaanStop open by the second half of the year.  It's likely the restaurant will be in the Decatur or Emory area but that could change if a situation develops elsewhere in Atlanta.  It's worth mentioning that another food truck calling itself Naan Stop, offering similar fare, launched in Austin, Texas this past June, but is not affiliated with the business that will open here in Atlanta and actually is infringing on their trademark.

If location one proves successful, the brothers hope to open additional locations in Atlanta and beyond. They don't want to create something as ubiquitous as McDonald's, but perhaps instead a well known but not insanely big, fast casual Indian eatery. Steve Ells opened the first Chipotle in 1993 and took the company public in 2006 at $22 a share, and by the end of the day, shares had doubled to $44, the best debut for a U.S. based company  in over 5 years.  Today Chipotle has over 1000 locations and its stock trades north of $350 per share.  While it's unfair to compare the two concepts, the fast-casual segment as a whole is where a lot of growth is, especially with ethnic offerings.

As a cuisine, Indian has been gaining in popularity with more and more Americans seeking healthier meal options.  Until recently, Indian was seen as too ethnic to appeal to the masses, but that is also changing. Before Taco Bell, Mexican was too ethnic and of course before Panda Express, most Asian eateries, like the Indian eateries of today, were independently owned and there was no multi-unit chain per se.

Locally, Cafe Bombay on Briarcliff, and Bhojanic on Clairmont, have been serving Indian cuisine for years and each have a dedicated following.  Additionally, Spice Route Supper Club from chef Asha Gomez became so popular she opened a full service restaurant, Cardamon Hill just a few weeks ago, at I-75 and Northside Drive.

Keep up with NaanStop and get opening updates via their twitter and facebook

Are you a fan of Indian cuisine?  Do you think NaanStop is a cool name?  Is Indian the next Mexican? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.


mindspringyahoo said...

We love Indian food. Healthy?!?! It's choc full of ghee (clarified butter), which is why it's so yummy.

Their concept sounds good. Don't forget about the existence of Rajbhog Indian Cafe, which we thought really good too. It's fast casual, but not 'wrap' oriented. Rajbhog on Pleasant Hill has 1/2 off coupons online, they also have a location on Dekalb Industrial.

Anonymous said...

I definitely love Indian food as well but agree that restaurant Indian food is not that healthy. Just stay away from the cream sauces and fried appetizers.

Looking forward to this new place though.

NaanStop said...

Thanks for your feedback guys! While much Indian restaurant food is heavy with cream and ghee, that's not the way most Indians eat at home. We strive for homestyle Indian food, with recipes from our mom and grandmother - we hope that you like them.

Look forward to seeing you at NaanStop when we open.

Neal and Samir

jkeene said...

It would be great to see the NaanStop truck make visits around Atlanta. It would give the Idnanis a chance to build a following and test the local market before committing to a brick and mortar location.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely, positively MIDTOWN is the place for this concept, The area has huge density and is starving for a concept like this. The Viewpoint Building has a parking lot on 6th right next to it and there are 700 resident units in the buildings within one block of that area, MIDTOWN on Peachtree all the WAY!!!!!!

Cory said...

I did watch "America's Next Great Restaurant" and thought the Indian fast causual idea was the most unique and had the greatest potential, regardless of my own biases (I love Indian food). I'm so glad to see someone bring this concept to life and so happy it's going to be in Atlanta. Can't wait!

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