To outsiders, Austin cuisine is the Texas Trinity: Mexican, barbeque and breakfast tacos.
We locals know better.
Quality ethnic fare is never too far away. With an exceptional menu in a laid back atmosphere, G’Raj Mahal Café and Lounge adds the flavors and flair of western India to Austin’s foodie culture.
G’raj Mahal’s Humble History
Like all things awesome, G’Raj Mahal has a fascinating history. Originally a food truck on Red River, the truck moved to Rainey Street where G’Raj was a go to spot for almost four years.
Almost immediately, owner Sidney Roberts and her husband Anthony knew a brick and mortar location was inevitable. Weekend wait times swelled to over two hours. According to G’Raj’s Marketing Manager Memo Jimenez, it was pure madness.
So when a location around the corner became available, the team jumped on the opportunity to give their loyal fan base a proper place to enjoy their food.
Authentic Décor with an Austin Twist
Like most hot spots on Rainey, G’Raj Mahal’s building was originally a residential home.
Although the original structure had to be torn down, G’Raj repurposed much of the material in their new space. Bits of the bar, walls and fence are made up from the original building which gives the interior a rustic, down home feel.
G’Raj’s outdoor space makes you feel like you’ve been invited to a hip yet friendly garden party. The street facing seating is colorful and quirky. The multi colored tables offer great people watching while the signature bicycle fence gives the space an off-beat vibe.
The back opens up to a relaxed lounge, complete with long, lush benches and heaters for the chilly winter months. It’s like hanging with a best friend who happens to be a world class chef.
Traditional Food with a Creative Flair
And what a chef! During my visit, my wife and I started with a delicious papri chat. Sweet and sour potato salad served cold with crisped naan and veggies, the appetizer was a palette cleansing mix of savory and sweet.
To help warm up during a rare November cold snap, our first entrée was the classic chicken tikka masala. Mahal’s take on everyone’s Indian go-to features a rich, creamy tomato base peppered with fresh peppers and onions. The curry spice was present but not overpowering (we asked for medium), which allowed the tomato to sit front and center with the tender chicken. Filling and delicious.
Entree number two was recommended by our server: the kashmiri, a delectable combination of meat in a sweet cream sauce flavored with apples, raisins and cashews. The lamb (our choice) was impossibly tender and the cashews jumped out from behind the subtle raisin and apple base. Our server said he had a 100% approval rate with the kashmiri and it’s easy to see why. I don’t even like raisins and I still found it to be exceptional.
All of G’raj Mahal’s curries come with firm basmati rice and are available with a number of protein options (beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, etc). The menu also includes tandoor, a variety of naan and a host of deserts. Yes, a sweet potato samosa is exactly as amazing as you would expect.
Happening Place on a Happening Block
G’raj Mahal also features an extensive list of fun things to do. The backyard plays host to live music at least three times a week. From bluegrass night to weekend DJs, there is always something good to groove to. Dining areas are available for private events and they even host a monthly Bollywood night. Salman Khan would be proud.
The best way I can describe the G’raj Mahal experience is “authentic.” From the serving dishes and decorations to the chilled out vibe, G’Raj Mahal remains true to both its Indian and Austin roots. Let your New York friends rave about Little Italy and Chinatown. I’ll take the quirky comfort and top notch cuisine of G’raj Mahal Cafe and Lounge any day of the week.
G’Raj Mahal is located at 73 Rainey Street. Check out their menu, specials and events at GrajMahalAustin.com.
All images are courtesy of Michael Sandoval unless otherwise noted. Check out more of his work on his Facebook page.
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