Customers gathered at the doors of Persis Indian Grill, Fort Mill’s newest restaurant, before they even opened on the first day of business — Christmas Day.
The franchise’s owners, childhood friends Kumar Patel and Nirav Patel, say reaction on the first day was good.
“People were saying ‘five stars’ about the food and the service,” Kumar said. “They were posting pictures and reviews on Google.”
Business was steady on Christmas, and on the following day, Kumar and Nirav rushed from the kitchen to tables in the dining room, taking customers’ orders and running food out from the kitchen as the dinner crowd picked up.
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While many Indian restaurants specialize in the cuisine of just one region of India, Persis offers a little bit of everything from north to south, east to west.
“This restaurant has all the flavors,” Kumar said.
On the menu are a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian appetizers and entrees (including fish and goat), chaat (Indian street food), curries and biryani — rice dishes made with different meats or vegetables with a blend of spices Kumar calls “mouth-watering.”
The restaurant’s chefs all have their specialties. One chef makes the tandoor offerings, which are typically marinated in yogurt and spices, then cooked in a clay oven over charcoal.
Choices include paneer tikka, fish tikka and several different kinds of kebabs. The chicken tikka is tender and flavorful. A side of aromatic green basmati rice blended with spinach and cilantro and finished with edible flowers and strands of saffron compliments the dish.
The tandoor lamb chops are equally tender, delicately spiced and served atop a bed of mashed potatoes, and garnished with microgreens.
Another Persis chef specializes in the restaurant’s spicy curry dishes, while a third makes the appetizers.
Kumar and Nirav obtained their MBAs together, and Kumar worked as a business analyst and Nirav as a database analyst in San Francisco.
Nirav later moved to New Jersey and then to Charlotte three years ago, where he worked for Bank of America.
The men had talked about opening a business together in the booming Fort Mill area, and first considered a liquor store, hotel or gas station as possibilities.
“But, we’re foodies,” Nirav said.
After visiting area Hindu temples, the businessmen learned of the need to open a restaurant in Fort Mill. Charlotte has a number of Indian restaurants and there are also Persis locations in Charlotte, Ballantyne, Columbia and Greenville, but Kumar and Nirav said residents in the Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Tega Cay areas were looking for a convenient Indian restaurant closer to home.
Kumar moved from San Francisco a year ago, specifically to open the business. The friends scouted several locations, including Baxter Village and the newer Kingsley complex, but they couldn’t find the perfect location that offered the space and parking they wanted.
“We wanted something spacious, with a good atmosphere,” Kumar said.
They settled on a location near Baxter and Kingsley in the former Baxter’s Bunch Playhouse building, at 1504 Carolina Place Drive. They began renting the roughly 4,000-square-foot space in May and renovations started in September.
The restaurant has a full bar and there will be nightly drink specials. In mid-January, Persis will begin offering daily lunch combinations, with appetizer, entree and dessert.
“Thirty days, 30 different combos,” Kumar said.
Persis is open every day from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 5:30-9:30 p.m. for dinner.
And although the restaurant is a franchise, Persis Indian Grill in Fort Mill is still a family and friends affair. Nirav’s wife, Disha, is the manager, and Kumar’s wife, Pooja, who works in information technology by day, will lend a hand at Persis in the evenings. Kumar’s father, Bhavin, and Nirav’s father, Dipak, are also helping supervise the restaurant.
Kumar is excited about offering Fort Mill its first taste of Indian food.
“It’s something new in my life,” he said.
Although he may eventually return to work in the IT field, right now, it’s all about the food he loves.
“I love the tandoori items,” he says, when asked to pick a favorite dish. “I love everything.”
For more, call 803-396-0444 or view the menu at persisfortmill.com.