Lavish sets. Melodrama. Elaborate song and dance.
That’s what comes to my mind when I hear the word, “Bollywood.”
Downtown Harrisburg? Not so much.
Yet, there I was, in the middle of 2nd Street, opening the door to downtown’s newest restaurant, Bollywood Bar and Grille.
When I entered, a server immediately welcomed me, guiding me to a small table then telling me to help myself to the buffet.
Immediately, I noted how different the space looked from the prior occupant, the Italian-themed Zia’s Red Door—or from any other Indian restaurant I’d been in.
The custom-made chairs were plush and inviting, the atmosphere relaxing. I looked around at the large Bollywood movie poster collages located next to the bar and on one of the walls in the main dining room. As I sat and took everything in, I found it hard to believe that this expression of India was in Harrisburg.
Owner Dinesh Purohit stood behind the bar ringing guests out and welcoming them to come back soon. Talking to him, you immediately sensed how proud he was of his creation.
“I hope to make a name as the best restaurant in the town or region,” Purohit said. “For me, the food has always come first, money second.”
Purohit started in the restaurant business through good sense and savvy.
Living in Wyomissing, a town outside of Reading, he owned a cigar shop. The closest Indian restaurant was miles away, he said. Seeing an opportunity, he opened Laxmi’s Indian Grille with the help of a friend. When his family recently moved to the Harrisburg area, he brought his restaurant expertise to the capital region.
“This location was exactly the way I like it,” he said. “And we needed a name that we could build the restaurant around.”
“Bollywood” fit the bill, the theme now visible throughout the restaurant, from the décor to the menu—riddled with Bollywood trivia—to the cocktails, named for famous Bollywood movies.
Though the restaurant has been open just a few months, Venkat Radhakrishna is already a regular. A contractor for the state Department of Health, he got excited when he heard that a restaurant specializing in northern Indian cuisine would open just two blocks from his job. Now, he can be found there at least once a week enjoying his favorite “comfort foods.”
“This restaurant has done a good job of breaking the stereotype of Indian food and just breaking boundaries,” said Radhakrishna, whose patronage is so dedicated that it inspired Purohit to create a loyalty card for frequent guests.
You can thank head chef Prem K.C. for the magic in the kitchen. He has worked in the food industry for 20 years, including as a chef for 17 years. Purohit met him through a mutual friend and, once he tried his cooking, knew he wanted to work with him.
“His food speaks for itself,” Purohit said. “Go online and read the reviews, and you will see for yourself.”
Over the course of a day, Bollywood Bar and Grille changes pace to meet the needs of diners. For lunch, the affordable buffet takes center stage, featuring numerous Indian staples, some with flavorful twists on classic dishes. At dinner, it becomes a sit-down restaurant, with creative takes on chicken, lamb, seafood and vegetarian dishes.
“The food is non-traditional, but has amazing taste,” Purohit said. “Dinnertime, we turn into an upscale restaurant that people expect when they go for dinner.”
If you stick around long enough, you may witness the restaurant again changing form. Late night, you might find yourself amidst a Bhangra dance party with a DJ spinning Bollywood remixes. There are also two separate rooms for private parties, and a hookah is available upon request.
Purohit even has an answer for the parking-obsessed. Present your parking receipt, and it will be taken care of on your bill. He may be a recent transplant to Harrisburg, but Purohit clearly understands this place he now calls home.
Bollywood Bar & Grille is located at 110 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg. For more information, including a menu, visit www.bollywoodbarandgrille.com or call 717-972-0708.
Author: Courtney Gontz