A couple of weeks ago my son Hank was in town visiting and when I picked him up at the airport on Saturday night, I’d planned to take him to a popular Mexican restaurant near there. “Can we go to Curry in a Hurry instead?” he proposed. Sure! I’m always up for a visit to Curry in a Hurry.
I mention this because last week Curry in a Hurry celebrated its 20th anniversary. That’s quite a feat for any business, but especially in the restaurant world where most eateries are fortunate if they make it to their second year, nevermind the 20th. I wonder if the Nisar family – immigrants who started Curry in a Hurry – could have imagined 20 years ago that they’d still be going strong today? They’ve survived a lot, including an attempted firebombing following the jingoism and intolerance ignited by 9/11. And what did they do to celebrate their 20th anniversary? They treated a large number of folks in their community to free meals. So, congratulations to the Nisars and here’s hoping that Curry in a Hurry will be around another 20 years from now.
Mona Nisar is the matriarch of the Nisar family and a few years ago her son, Sunny, opened Curry Fried Chicken (CFC) downtown on State Street. It was a brilliant concept: fried chicken that incorporated curry spices into the batter. I don’t know if Sunny was the first person to fry chicken with curry flavors, but it was the first curried fried chicken I’d ever encountered. I remember asking him at the time if fried chicken with curry was popular in Pakistan and he said he’d never seen it there. So I guess you could call Curry Fried Chicken all-American.
I really love the warm vibe, warm colors, and warm wood fixtures at Curry in a Hurry. Sunny usually takes orders himself and he couldn’t be more amiable and outgoing. He seems to know most of his customers – like the homeless guy who wandered in while I was there last and asked how much chicken he could get for $10. Sunny generously filled up a bag with chicken for him – a lot more than 10 bucks worth. That’s the kind of guy he is.
I’ve read other food writers who say the chicken at CFC is really spicy. I don’t think so. I find it to be pretty mild, in fact, but very well-seasoned. It’s certainly not blow your taste buds away spicy like Nashville hot chicken, for example. I think CFC is more comparable to the spice level at Popeyes, probably. The tender fried chicken is cooked to crispy perfection and I love that my hands always smell like curry for about a day after I inhale that extraordinary chicken.
Whenever I’ve had the fried chicken at CFC, it’s been a thigh and a leg as part of the Curry Fried Chicken Plate. There may be wings and/or breasts lingering somewhere, but I’ve never encountered them. Combo plates at CFC run $12.99 and they’re overflowing with good food. In addition to the Curry Fried Chicken Plate is a Tandoori Chicken Plate, Chicken Keema Kebab Plate, Shwarma Plate, Vegan/Veggie Plate, and Curry Fried Fish Kebab Plate. Each combo plate is served with basmati rice, vegetable curry, house salad with creamy vinaigrette, and warm pita slices. If you do want to spice up your meal, there are a number of hot sauces available as well as an incendiary pepper sauce that comes with each plate.
In addition to the combo plates, fried chicken, tandoori chicken, curry fried fish, shwarma, chicken keema, and falafel are all available as salads ($7.49-$7.99) or as wraps ($7.49-$7.99). My wife and I both really liked the wonderfully spiced chicken keema patties, which happens to be Sunny Nisar’s favorite CFC food, as well.
Side dishes include hummus, hot curry fries, popadom (thin, crisp Indian-style lentil wafers) and samosas (savory potato-stuffed pastries). For beverages, there’s fountain soda along with Desi Indian Chai, Doodh Soda, Mango Lassi, and Rooh-Afzha, a non-alcoholic concentrated squash drink.
There is a sign hanging on a wall at Curry Fried Chicken that reads: All because two people fell in love. According to Sunny Nisar, his mom is from Kenya and his dad comes from Pakistan, so the chances of them meeting, falling in love and marrying were slim, to say the least. But it happened. I always feel like there’s a lot of love in the air at this excellent little eatery, and surely a lot to love about the curry fried chicken.
Culinary quote of the week:
A good curry should leave your taste buds smoldering, your arse on fire, and your plate empty. — Anthony T. Hincks
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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