I was driving up Orange Blossom Trail the other day when I got a craving for Indian food, maybe some lamb korma or chicken tikka masala. It was right about then that I spotted the sign for Bombay Cafe, next door to Charley’s Steak House, so I pulled into the parking lot and went inside. What I found was quite unusual.
First off, I didn’t find the restaurant, at least not right away. Bombay Cafe is one of a handful of Indian businesses that comprise a sort of mini mall. There is a sizable food market up front, a clothing store, jewelry and such. The cafe is at the end of the brightly lit short hallway in the back.
It’s a small space that is made to seem even smaller with the inclusion of high dividers that give the impression of cubicles in a bank. The windows at the front look out only to the hallway — there is no view of the outdoors.
Instead of full service, Bombay Cafe is structured more as a fast-casual restaurant where guests order at the counter then take any available seat and wait for someone to deliver the food. As I approached, I was greeted warmly by a young man behind the counter who handed me a menu for me to look over.
And as I looked it over, I realized something was missing: meat.
Vegetarian Indian restaurants aren’t unusual. In fact, the popular Woodlands veg is close by. What is unusual is that nowhere, not on the sign, not at the entrance and not on the menu does the word vegetarian appear. It’s just something you come to realize as you peruse.
So there would be no lamb or chicken, but it didn’t matter. I instead started with an order of samosa, flaky turnovers stuffed with chunks of potatoes and some peas. They were accompanied by the usual triumvirate of chutneys — mint, tamarind and onion — but the onion wasn’t as chunky as you usually find; it was pureed to match to consistency of the other two. All were good dipping agents.
For my entree I had the chana masala, a chickpea-based curry dish with a thick, rich gravy. There were plenty of “meaty” chickpeas, and while it wasn’t the most flavorful or well-seasoned curry I’ve had, it was pretty good, especially with the basmati rice, and it satisfied my craving for an Indian meal (if not the craving for meat).
Bombay Cafe is at 1137 Doss Ave. (at Orange Blossom Trail), Orlando. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. This link will take you to bombaycafeorlando.com. The phone number is 407-240-5151.