The Vermont Cynic | Masala Elaichi serves authentic Indian food BTV

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The flavors of Masala Elaichi, a family restaurant, waft from the corner of Colchester and East Avenues, attracting UVM students to sample Indian staples.

The restaurant, formerly named Elaichi, opened in 2020 at 207 Colchester Ave. It reopened in December 2021, with a new name and renovation by owner Varinder Matri. Prior to Elaichi, the building housed another restaurant called India House.

Matri and her brothers-in-law Sikander Badhan and Priyank Shah bought the restaurant in 2020 after moving from New York to Vermont. Matri is now the sole owner and changed the name to Masala Elaichi when it reopened, he said.

“I added Masala to the name because people know what it means,” Matri said. “Elaichi means cardamom, masala means spice.”

Many people have discouraged Matri and the other former owners from opening a restaurant amid the pandemic. They chose to go ahead anyway and it paid off, he said.

“In Corona times, nobody was opening restaurants,” Matri said. “Nobody opened anything. So I thought people would need our food.

Many Indians live in Vermont, but there are few Indian food options, Matri said.

One of his passions is helping students and community members in need stay fed. College was financially difficult for Matri and he wants to prevent others from having a similar experience, he said.

“My wish is that many students come here,” Matri said. “Money doesn’t matter. [If] they come here, they go to eat.

UVM students come to the restaurant regularly and Matri likes to see familiar faces. There are a variety of student discounts offered. Matri hopes to create a place that students can rely on for delicious and affordable food, he said.

“I don’t want anyone to go hungry,” Matri said. “It is my wish.”

Masala Elaichi aims to redefine the perception of Indian cuisine in the Burlington area, according to their website. Matri’s favorite is mango lassi, but he said popular choices include chicken tikka masala and garlic naan. (Joshua Hardwood)

The restaurant’s student discounts include a Sunday buffet for $10 each and a lunch discount including rice, two curries and a naan for $8.50.

“My favorite is the mango lassi,” Matri said. “Chicken tikka masala and garlic naan are the most popular [dishes].”

Sophomore Rebecca Vassilenko is a resident of Trinity Campus. She loves grabbing her favorite takeout from Masala Elaichi, she said.

“I started eating there after moving to the Trinity campus where dining options are really limited,” Vassilenko said. “It’s a two-minute walk from my dorm.”

Trinity’s dining hall, Northside Dining, has converted to a take-out market this year, leaving students frustrated with food options, according to a September 17, 2021 Cynic article.

“The staff are so friendly when I walk into the restaurant,” Vassilenko said. “I know it’s become a staple for a lot of other Trinity students.”

Her favorite foods are tikka masala and buttered naan, she says.

“I usually get takeout from them,” Vassilenko said. “I like how easy it is to order online and they’re really quick. It’s great when I can’t get back to the dorm for dinner.

Umbrellas hang from the ceiling of the March 18 restaurant. (Joshua Hardwood)

Matri’s father-in-law, Suraj Mattri, worked at the former India House restaurant until it closed in 2019 and now manages Masala Elaichi. He has worked in the restaurant business for years, Matri said.

“He takes care of everything here,” Matri said. “None of this would happen without him.”

The restaurant has five employees, including Matri’s sister and brother-in-law. They hope to hire other people to take orders over the phone and someone to serve as a bartender, he said.

They are waiting for their liquor license to arrive and plan to build a bigger bar soon. With this, Matri hopes they will stay open later and attract more people. Once the bar opens, it plans to offer a 30% drink discount to students, he said.

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