Nepali Restaurant Spices Up Downtown Moorhead
BY ANDY WESTON
A Moorhead couple have combined their passion for their country of origin and for each other to bring a new cultural experience to the area.
Downtown Fargo-Moorhead is host to a wide variety of restaurants but two people living in Moorhead noticed a lack of cuisine from their country of origin, Nepal, and decided to take on the problem themselves by opening Everest Tikka House.
As transplants from Nepal, Saru Pokharel, owner of Everest Tikka House restaurant and Ben Dangi, the manager at Tikka House, wanted to create a place where they could feel at home, even in the Minnesota cold.
“I think we are trying to make it feel more like home so I don’t have to miss back home or the people back home and the surroundings and the environment,” said Pokharel.
Pokharel moved to Moorhead in Jan. 2009 to attend Minnesota State University Moorhead. It was during her time at college she met Dangi who was also from Nepal.
Being dropped into a brand new culture can be a shock. Pokharel and Dangi remember wishing there had been a place where they could indulge in comfort food from home.
“You miss everything,” Dangi said. “You’re now munching on hot dogs and pasta and pizza.”
“You don’t like any of those for a couple of months,” said Pokharel. “You hate it.”
“Your palette is not adjusted to that,” Dangi said.
Understanding the importance of familiarity to someone who is in a new country, Pokharel and Dangi take pride in knowing their restaurant can be a comfort zone for MSUM students who are new to the area.
“We always see a trend when a new school year starts,” said Pokharel “Because [International students] miss home. You are 8,000 or 9,000 miles away from home”
But creating a place for people from Nepal or India to feel at home is not the only driving factor behind the Tikka House, it’s also about getting Fargo-Moorhead natives to experience a new culture.
“For people here, who have never traveled, who have never stepped outside of North Dakota, for them it’s kind of adventurous,” said Pokharel.
Because of the inclusive way they run their business, Pokharel and Dangi believe anyone can feel welcome at the Tikka House.
“We are not trying to define our customers by age or ethnicity,” said Dangi. “Our main motto is just to share the culture through food.”
And it doesn’t take long for Pokharel to demonstrate how the restaurant brings in all ethnicities and ages.
“The kid who is coming in right now, she loves our food and she’s four years old,” said Pokharel.
But the reception of the restaurant has been positive even outside of their regular customers.
“The response was pretty amazing here in Moorhead,” said Dangi.
Pokharel added in agreement that, “It was an overwhelming response from the people.”
So how have these two been able to open an ethnic restaurant in the Midwest to such success?
Part of it may be attributed to the fact that they are not just business partners.
“Are we friends?” Pokharel asked Dangi in jest after being asked what their relationship is to each other.
After meeting at MSUM and hitting it off, they have been dating ever since.
“We have been together nine years,” Dangi said.
Because of their personal relationship they have been able to grow together and work well as business partners.
“I think for us, it’s always been like pushing each other to the limit is what we do,” said Pokharel.
“But positively,” Dangi said.
“Yeah, always positively,” said Pokharel.
Pokharel likens it to a classic dance.
“It takes two to tango,” said Pokharel. “That’s so cliché but it’s true. We have a lot of differences but things that are common that bring us together.”
Because of their ability to bring out the best in each other and work hard, this Moorhead couple has been able to bring part of their culture to the area. But the city has also imprinted itself onto them.
“I like it here,” said Pokharel.
“Except the weather,” Dangi said.
“No, I’m ok with the weather too,” said Pokharel. “You get to wear cool jackets and boots.”
But even though they have differing views on the frigid winter weather, they can both agree that they’ve found a home in Moorhead.
“I think we belong in Moorhead,” Pokharel said.
“We love it here,” said Dangi.
The Everest Tikka House is located in the Moorhead City Mall while their new restaurant, The Himalayan Yak, can be located across the river in Fargo.
(Andy Weston is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism at MSUM. He hopes to one day end the hashtag and bring back the pound sign. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)