From India With Love

One Man’s Restaurant Dreams Bring Him to Town

Story and photo by Rodger Nichols

With community support, Deepak Bamba brought the foods, wines, and flavors from India to the first restaurant of its kind in The Dalles.

International cuisines are often found in big cities, where there are sufficient populations of different ethnicities to support them. The spread to smaller towns is slower, but options tend to expand as people travel more.

Local folks in the baby boomer generation may remember the excitement when pizzas arrived in the Gorge in 1966 with the opening of Spooky’s. Prior to that, local cuisine was limited to American, Chinese, or Mexican options.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of choice in The Dalles: French, Thai, Hawaiian, Japanese, and Vietnamese. To that list, the town recently added Indian cuisine to Bamba’s Indian Food Bar. The new spot opened on January 30 at 312 Court Street on the ground level of the Commodore Building.

The driving force behind the restaurant is Deepak Bamba, who moved from India to the United States in 2014 with his wife, Geeta, and daughter Kripakshi.

The family landed in Camas, Washington, with the help of Darshanpreet Pataria, who had been like a godfather to Deepak in India. Since their arrival, the family has grown, adding a daughter Sakshi, and a son, Varun.

Deepak was a business owner in India but says he always had a passion for Indian cooking, which he learned from his mother. Darshanpreet encouraged Deepak, and he helped prepare Indian food for the Sikh temple in nearby Vancouver.

The temple also acts as a community center and gathering place for people from the Punjab region of northwestern India, Deepak’s original home.

“Every Sunday, people would cook five or 6 dishes for 200 to 300 people,” Deepak says. “Rice, desserts, snacks, and more. I learned a great deal from them, and here we are.”

After searching widely in the Portland-Vancouver area for a suitable place to open his own restaurant— and finding all the options too expensive—it was a lucky call from a friend who sent Deepak to The Dalles.

“He had seen this place on Facebook Marketplace and wondered if I was willing to go so far from Camas,”

Deepak says. “I was in my car and on my way in 10 minutes.”

Preparations for the opening were extensive. Operators of the restaurant previously in that location had stripped the place, taking everything with them.

“Everything is brand new in the kitchen,” Deepak says. “All the equipment, all the dishes, and all the furniture.”

Deepak says the reception he has received from people in the area has been positive.

“They have been very welcoming, especially in The Dalles,” he says. “We felt a lot of discrimination back in India, and we did not feel anything like that here. It is wonderful.”

Deepak sees himself as an apostle of the better parts of Indian culture, and introducing the cuisine as a way to start bridging the gap between cultures.

One customer told Deepak, “I’ve been waiting for 20 years for someone to open an Indian restaurant in The Dalles.”

For other local people, this is their first experience with Indian food.

“They come in and sit down and ask us what they should order, or what is our favorite dish,” Deepak says. “I usually tell them the butter chicken Masala (chicken in a creamy tomato sauce) is very popular dish, but I don’t want to always recommend the same thing.”

The best way to introduce people to Indian food, he decided, was to offer people a chance to sample different items. In June, he began a lunch buffet with a wide choice of foods, including vegetarian options.

One thing Deepak stresses is that Indian cuisine has an undeserved reputation for being overly spicy. That’s not the case, particularly for food from the Punjab region. The food served at Bamba’s is designed to be comfortable for American palates. For those who like it hot, the staff is happy to add spices to whatever level of heat the customer desires.

The restaurant also has a full bar and carries 9 choices of Indian beer.

There are red and white Indian wines available as well, along with standard American brands.

“We actually stock more varieties of Indian beer than they do in India,” Deepak says. “Most restaurants in India have only one or two offerings.”

When the restaurant first opened, Deepak commuted to Camas daily. These days, he has a place to stay in

The Dalles visit his family once or twice a week.

He did bring one family member with him.

Deepak’s cousin Nipen Kataria works with him in the front of the restaurant.

Local residents have plenty of opportunities to check out the food and beverages at Bamba’s Indian Restaurant Bar.

“We are open every day for lunch from 11 A.M. to 3 P.M.,” Deepak says.

“Then we take a break and reopen for dinner from 4:30 P.M. to 9 P.M. That’s 7 days a week. We want to give everyone a chance to try our wonderful cuisine.”

Customers can order food to go from Bamba’s. Call (541) 769-0076 or Bamba's Indian Food Bar Email. Visit the Bamba’s Indian Food Bar website or Facebook page.