Niki’s Indian Food: A DeathbedFood Love Story Restrospective
I think it’s important to note DeathbedFood-worthy experiences even if they aren’t here anymore with us. This is that kind of tale.
I LOVE INDIAN FOOD. Like BBC America show “ “), I relish the unique and deep spices of the cuisine.(from his
But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, it wasn’t until ’92 in Orange County (CA), that my love affair with Indian food began when a group of us from work headed to a “fast food Indian restaurant” in a strip mall near South Coast Plaza. I wasn’t thrilled because I didn’t like Indian food. Maybe it was due to my bad experience shortly before this with a blond, “surfer dude” waiter at a Newport Beach Indian restaurant:
Blond surfer dude – to me. “So what would you like?”
Me. “What do you have without curry?”
Blond surfer dude, laughing. “Well, EVERYTHING we have has curry.”
Needless to say, I didn’t prioritize Indian food after that. Still, here I was at the strip mall at what would turn out to be one of the pivotal relationships of my life: Niki’s.
Our first date was just OK. I think I had chicken kabob, rice, and maybe the Naan bread. I wasn’t that taken but, because there weren’t too many options around, I decided to give it one more try.
The second date wasn’t much better. Again, OK, but still didn’t see what people saw. Seemed to me there were more hip and more fun places around. Still, I thought it was worth a 3rd date.
The third time around, something clicked: the Earth, the Moon and the Stars! And so the love affair began. I fell hard and fast, becoming a regular in no time. I would easily see Niki’s three times a week … usually more like five times.
Niki’s was great for many reasons. First, their food quality was always excellent. Their service friendly. Niki’s became my, where everyone knew my name. They made Indian food accessible. It was fast, cheap and good … no need to get the whole family and/or friends to go with me … I could see Niki’s whenever my heart desired.
Because I could go there so often, our relationship thrived. I’m not a believer that “distance makes the heart grow fonder”. I think it’s the opposite, in fact. I now believe that I was always an Indian-food junkie at heart but, prior to ’92 and Niki’s, I just didn’t know it yet.
My love affair endured even when I moved around. In ’98, I moved to Michigan for a year. My first order of business was to find an apartment – my next, an Indian restaurant. While I found a place to live, I never was able to replace my Niki’s.
During my year away, I visited Niki’s whenever I was in town and became a regular again when I moved back in ’99. As with any good relationship, I made other friends too as a result of my main squeeze. Another regular, Scott, became my “Niki’s buddy.” We never saw each other outside of the restaurant but became friends because we both went there so much, joking about who was the “real” regular. I know Scott thought he was but I seriously doubt that he had Niki’s menu at home … framed … hung on his kitchen wall … for years.
I moved to LA in ’05 and would still visit my Beloved when I’d go to the OC – usually on a Saturday. One Saturday in January 2007, I went to visit and Niki’s was there but eerily empty. Upon approaching, I saw a handwritten note, “Sorry, we are closing” … it felt like Sex & The City when Burger broke up with Carrie via a sticky note!
Today, there’s a Chipotle there. While I’m a supporter of their fresh approach, it still saddens me …
It makes me wonder how others handle restaurant loss like this? Is there a support group maybe?
I’ve tried to find Indian places in LA. I don’t know if I’m still pining for my Niki’s or if it’s the “LA influence”. LA seems to be a difficult place for relationships to blossom … maybe it’s the weather (70 and sunny – “I must get outside!”) or simply all of the constantly changing options as there’s always something newer and hipper cropping up.
In the end, I’m a romantic who believes, like Lord Tennyson that “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. Even with the loss, I’m grateful as Niki’s left an indelible footprint on my heart – and my palate.