I-80 Dhaba at 2110 West St. opened for business in March 2024.
I-80 Dhaba at 2110 West St. opened for business in March 2024.
Levi Magill

I-80 Dhaba brings authentic Indian flavors to Grinnell

After Sushil Khurana left Punjab, India, he worked as an IT consultant for over a decade, but he said he always struggled to find Indian food where he was living, both in the United States and Canada. Now, 17 years after opening his first restaurant, he and his business partners continue to bring vegetarian, Indian cuisine to Iowa with their new spot I-80 Dhaba located in the town of Grinnell.

In 2007, Khurana, Anil Sharma and Vikas Kalia opened their first restaurant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa named Taste of India. In 2021, the partners made the decision to sell that restaurant and start looking for new business ventures, according to Khurana. He said, “We made a good name for ourselves there.”

The idea for a restaurant in Grinnell came about a few years back when a representative of the City of Grinnell came to Taste of India to inquire about opening a location in Grinnell. While a personnel shortage at the time delayed those plans, said Khurana, the support of the city helped them eventually open a space in town. 

“We found a good spot here in Grinnell and said ‘okay, let’s open up a place,’” said Khurana, “We have the background, we have the experience.” 

I-80 Dhaba’s menu features a variety of plant-based dishes with proteins like chickpeas, lentils, paneer and plant-based protein, all cooked with a variety of sauces, spices and vegetables. Entrees include chana masala, kadai paneer and Beyond protein tikka masala among others. 

I-80 Dhaba serves a range of authentic Indian and vegetarian dishes. (Levi Magill)

“The main thing is the sauces,” Khurana explained on his philosophy to preparing good food. “You can add any protein to it and the protein will take its flavor.”

Restaurant-goers can pair their entrees with a wide variety of appetizers, sides, beverages and desserts. For instance, samosas, garlic naan, and masala chai. 

He explained that their decision to serve food from home came from a desire to bring good vegetarian, Indian food to a region where they often had difficulty finding it. Particularly when traveling, Khurana noted, choices can be very limited, “and food is a huge part of travel.”

I-80 Dhaba’s name is a reference to its location at 2110 West St, which is close to Grinnell’s interstate entrance. The term “Dhaba” refers to a roadside restaurant, which Khurana said was common where he grew up. He said that he hopes the restaurant is able to serve both the town of Grinnell and the traveling population along the I-80 interstate. With a large trucking community from South Asia, said Khurana, he wants his restaurant to be a place where “they can park and can grab something that’s close to their home style.”

Owner Sushil Khurana said he hopes to serve both the town of Grinnell, students included, and passing truck drivers. (Levi Magill)

As the only Indian restaurant in the town of Grinnell, Khurana said he hopes those from the College and the town will also make their way over and give the food a try. He said the reception in the weeks they have been open so far has been excellent. “I did not expect it because we have not even advertised yet,” said Khurana.

For those hoping to try I-80 Dhaba for themselves, the restaurant is currently open Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for both dine-in and take-out. 

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