The Curry Club officially has a new look, now with a water view.
Previously located in Setauket at 10 Woods Corner Road, the family behind several local eateries and venues has merged two favorites into one large palace of spice.
Indu Kaur, owner of SāGhar in Port Jefferson, said that when her family purchased the building located at 111 W. Broadway, the original plan was to eventually move The Curry Club in — but then COVID-19 happened and everything changed.
Kulwant Wadhwa, the family’s patriarch and owner of The Curry Club, kept his location the same, and everything they had planned stalled. The Wadhwa/Kaur family devoted their time to helping first responders from Riverhead to Manhattan by feeding them good, wholesome Indian cuisine as they renovated the former Harbor Grill and Schaffer’s into SāGhar — an Indian-American fusion restaurant, with a gorgeous upstairs bar overlooking the harbor.
SāGhar, translates to “Home of the Sea.”
The family is also behind The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station, which reopened last year after a fire devasted the catering hall back in 2018.
“So, we kind of took the challenge,” Kaur said. “And over the last year, we became well known in the community.”
Now, nearly two years after purchasing the new Port Jefferson village spot, the dream of integrating The Curry Club into SāGhar has officially become a reality.
“It’s all blended very well,” Kaur added. “It’s our story. We started from an authentic Indian restaurant, and now here we’re the next generation, adding a more modern fusion touch to the menu.”
And as of Tuesday, Feb. 8, The Curry Club at SāGhar was born.
Practically overnight, Kaur said they finalized dinner in Setauket, and after sending their customers home they moved out.
Monday night, the family moved from the former location into the downstairs room. Wadhwa said that SāGhar has given them more space to cater to more people — roughly 75 seats upstairs, 55 in the Harbor Room up front, 35 in the Captain’s Room and 45 in the Schooner Room. The Curry Club at SāGhar is on the same lot where the famous Schooner Restaurant sat years ago.
The lease will officially be up at the old location on May 31, and until then the family will continue to operate The Velvet Lounge adjoining the restaurant.
But the two are excited for SāGhar’s new look. According to Kaur, a lot of it will look similar but now they will offer a full buffet — just like The Curry Club was famously known for.
“In Port Jefferson, there is nowhere where you can actually grab and go pick food, especially for nurses meaning to get out in two minutes who are only a mile away to the hospital,” she said.
She added that they will continue doing live music every weekend, and host other fun events for the community like psychic nights.
With the move came a whole renovation to their kitchen and an addition of a whole line of Halal wines — champagnes, reds and whites created with 0% alcohol.
And Wadhwa said there is something for everyone at the “new” Curry Club.
“We’ve got vegetarian options, vegan, nonvegetarian, gluten free … we thought of everything,” he said.
They’re also continuing their balanced lunches.
“Those are always very popular,” Kaur said. “This is a must-have.”
For just $20, the lunch portion includes eight samplings of different Indian dishes and a side of rice to try them with. It also comes with a side of naan bread for easy dipping.
Wadhwa was not always a restaurateur. In fact, the family originated in Afghanistan where he was a pharmacist.
“A lot of things happened with our country,” Kaur said, adding that the family eventually moved to India to escape.
As his children began getting older and started to marry, Wadhwa decided that moving to America would be the best option for his family. In the early 1990s, he came to Long Island, where his brother-in-law was a chef. Together, they decided to open what was believed to be the first Indian restaurant in Suffolk County — The Curry Club.
Wadhwa “started working in the kitchen,” Kaur said. “Dad didn’t even know how to pick up a glass of water, but now he’s running three bars.”
And just like that, he changed his career “because of family survivorship,” she said. “America has been a blessing that we were able to survive.”
The original Curry Club was actually located where Bliss is currently occupied.
Wadhwa said that at the time the only other well-known Indian restaurant was located in Hicksville and they were worried if it would work out.
“From the day we opened the door, we got busy,” he said. “We got so busy that a line was outside — people were waiting.”
Now, nearly 30 years later, the family is excited to continue bringing flavor to the North Shore.
“We want to bring color,” Kaur said. “And spice and happiness. That’s our goal, to just serve our community and see everybody happy with food.”
The daughter-and-father duo said that they can agree seeing people happy when they leave with full bellies keeps them smiling.
Soft spoken and modest, Indu Kaur has been quietly helping out her community, all while managing and operating three local businesses — two of which opened in the midst of a global pandemic.
Kaur, owner of SāGhar in Port Jefferson, also works alongside her family with their two other establishments — The Curry Club in Setauket and the newly renovated The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson Station.
A resident of Setauket, her sister Kiran Wadhwa said that while she lives a few minutes out of the village or station, Port Jefferson is her second home.
“She just wants to always lend a helping hand,” Wadhwa said. “Her goal is to make the community better.”
Joan Nickeson, community liaison to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said that Kaur is a member of several different boards and groups that all service Port Jefferson and its surrounding areas.
“She is a model of entrepreneurship,” she said. “I am thoroughly impressed by her talent, grace and forward-thinking perspective.”
Nickeson added that along with being a PJSTCC member, she is part of the Port Jefferson Chamber and the Three Village Chamber of Commerce. Kaur is also secretary of the Cumsewogue Historical Society, and owner of the historic Baylis-Randall house, next to The Meadow Club.
“She is looking to refurbish it and establish space for photos and archives of local history of, not just The Meadow Club, but the Baylis-Randall house, historic Port Jefferson Station and Terryville,” she said.
While working full time at SāGhar in the village, dishing out delicious Indian and American cuisine and cocktails to locals and visitors alike, Wadhwa said that Kaur also does finances for The Meadow Club and handles all of its operations.
“She burns the candle at both ends to improve her restaurant and catering hall,” Nickeson added.
This past June, Kaur and Wadhwa hosted the Port Jefferson high school’s prom at The Meadow Club, as well as Port Jefferson Chamber’s Health and Wellness Fest in October — two opportunities that brought both sides of Port Jefferson together.
And all of these things were implemented over the last year and a half — while dealing with and overcoming the coronavirus.
“Although women-owned businesses are somewhat rare in the restaurant/hospitality industry, Indu Kaur has managed to open two unique properties during a pandemic — The Meadow Club and SāGhar,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “She is a role model for women aspiring to be restaurateurs. She has a can-do, work-hard attitude that she attributes to her immigrant family.”
Kaur previously told TBR News Media that after a fire devastated The Meadow Club in 2018, she and her family spent more than two years repairing it and turning it into the picture-perfect venue it is today.
But in the midst of rebuilding and construction, the pandemic hit — also as Kaur signed the deal on taking over the former Harbor Grill (Schafer’s) in the village.
“Two years ago, we thought we were done,” Kaur said last November, just as The Meadow Club was starting to unveil. “But now we’re excited to bring our gem back to Suffolk County.”
Hahn added that Kaur “had the courage and perseverance to rebuild The Meadow Club and reopen it bigger and better in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Incredibly, she also simultaneously opened SāGhar, a new restaurant in Port Jefferson Village with rooftop dining. It was this open-air rooftop that helped her stay open throughout the pandemic.”
An empathetic business owner, Hahn said that Kaur would always put the needs of her customers first — even as she struggled herself throughout the troubles of maintaining her establishments during a trying time.
“Even though she was incredibly busy with two businesses, she never forgot the hardship of her employees and the brides and grooms who were displaced by the fire, and did her best to help them find new jobs and wedding venues,” Hahn said. “Indu is an unstoppable force and a tremendous asset to our community.”
And on top of all that, Kaur would personally drive meals — more than $30,000 worth of food — to first responders throughout the pandemic to make sure they had nice hot meals and to say “thanks.”
Kaur still stays philanthropic, donating meals and food to homeless shelters and families that lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
And she’s a great neighbor, Port Jefferson Village trustee Rebecca Kassay said.
As of late, Kaur has taken it upon herself to create welcome bags for residents moving into the newly opened apartment buildings in town.
“These lovely gift bags full of local vouchers, coupons, gift cards and information about the Port Jefferson business community help to tie new residents into our vibrant community,” Kassay said. “Indu so often weaves people together in the most beautiful ways, and we are endlessly grateful for her thoughtful and inclusive efforts.”
Kassay added that Kaur is a “gift to this community.”
“Between the glowing positivity she emanates, her incredible organizational skills and her generous spirit, it is no wonder that her business and community efforts find deserved success,” the village trustee said.
Kaur’s sister agreed.
“She always gives 100% — whether it’s for her friends, family, businesses or community,” Wadhwa said. “There is no one else I can see being any more deserving of this nomination for Person of the Year than Indu.”
Many stores, shops and restaurants had to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic nationwide. Sustaining a business was just too hard, especially during the unprecedented times of the virus spread then government-mandated shutdowns of most venues and shops.
Despite these massive hardships, several so-called COVIDpreneurs, or people who opened up shop during the pandemic, decided to take a risk during a rather bleak time, some putting their livelihoods on the line for the sake of their passions as well as for the community.
While it’s hard to know the future of these new businesses, most owners said not even a pandemic could stop them from realizing their dreams.
SāGhar: 111 W. Broadway, Port Jefferson
The family behind SāGhar officially took over the former Harbor Grill in January. With plans to open up a brand-new fine dining experience with Indian cuisine on the water in March, their first day open was also the day they closed, with no real way to prepare for what was going to happen on the horizon.
“Our main attention was, ‘How are we going to survive’?” co-owner Indu Kaur said. Since their concept was more upscale, they didn’t initially incorporate takeout or delivery options.
“We had to sit and brainstorm: ‘How are we going to handle not having any of those things and still be functioning and operating?’” co-owner Kiran Wadhwa said.
They decided to spend their time helping essential workers while they waited for state restaurant guidelines to change. During the height of the pandemic, they donated over $30,000 worth of food and more than
“Instead of thinking about our own business and menu and takeout, we came up with the idea to donate food to hospitals from Riverhead to New York City.”
During the summer, indoor dining was finally allowed and in just one week the family moved quickly to set up SāGhar, but it was tough. Since their original plans of opening were halted months before, they had to complete their menu, renovate the kitchen to accommodate Indian cooking and train their new staff under social-distancing rules.
It was hard on the family financially as well. On top of typical expenses that would be spent during a new opening, they had to add masks, shields and signs on top of a budget that was already depleted.
Kaur said her family began using personal savings and personal savings just to pay bills and make their dream restaurant a reality. Although customers were flocking to SāGhar during the summer and since their grand opening, now that the cooler weather is here, they’re getting worried again.
“We were able to recoup a little bit during the summer, but now it’s that same feeling of stress, because people aren’t walking in and going out as much,” Wadhwa said. “We’re just hoping that things normalize … I think now I’m feeling it more, because now that we’re settled from the summer, it’s just so draining. … You feel so down from it.”
Although it has been tough, the family is still fighting to keep their restaurant afloat because they believe in their brand and want to share good food with the community. “Breaking even would be ideal for the next year,” Wadhwa said.
Taco Island Tex-Mex: 5507 Nesconset Highway, Mount Sinai
Aman Bhola has been in the food truck industry for a few years, owning a popular North Shore Tex-Mex vehicle. But he said in early March, he decided to leave that business endeavor and start anew with a brick-and-mortar location in Mount Sinai in April, even though the COVID-19 virus was spreading fast.
“My customer base was already a strong motivation for me to come back,” he said. “But nothing in the world would stop me from following my dream.”
Taco Island officially opened up in July after a quick, but hefty, renovation of the space’s former occupant. Bhola, a 27-year-old Indian American knew his customers could use some good, affordable food while riding the pandemic out.
“I believed in myself and I believe in my brand,” he said.
Taco Island offers an extensive menu of Mexican options, all made fresh and from scratch with every order.
“At Taco Island, our main focus is authentic flavor,” he said.
But it wasn’t the easiest task to open during the crisis.
“It’s been a huge challenge,” he said. “My team has been working above and beyond.”
But to get through the rest of COVID-19, he’s come up with a plan to stabilize his business and “deal with the next wave.”
“We’re not increasing our staff or inventory,” he said. “We’re taking the right precautions.”
The young COVIDpreneur said that although it’s a worrisome time, he still feels motivated and excited to be doing what he loves.
“For the last three Friday’s we’ve been opened, we’ve had to close early because we sold out,” he said.
He didn’t fully remove himself from the food truck business, either, which helped out for catering outdoor events.
Long Island Beer and Burger Experience: South Setauket
When COVID-19 hit New York, Thomas Francis, of South Setauket, was worried because March is usually the start of his industry’s season. “My season starts St. Patrick’s Day,” he said. “From that time until the end of June it was bad.”
Four years ago, he started a small wedding business, the Long Island Cuban Cigar and Bourbon Experience. His mobile cigar and bourbon lounge sits inside a 32-foot vintage Airstream trailer that can be brought to any type of outside event.
“It’s the only experience like this in the world,” he said, noting that he has brought his services across the country.
Since the cigar and bourbon mobile was such a hit, two years ago he began the Long Island Wine and Cheese Experience, featuring wines from local vineyards and cheeses to pair with them.
With his businesses going so well, he began thinking of his next venture featuring burgers and beers. Accordingly, the Long Island Beer and Burger Experience was planned to roll out in April. Using the same model, it would feature craft beers from local breweries and a burger to go with them.
“In April I had plans to begin the Beer and Burger Experience, but I thought I wasn’t going to open because of COVID,” he said.
Despite the pandemic, he decided to start up his third vehicle anyway.
When everything shut down and events were canceled, it was hard, he said. But then as outdoor weddings, parties and gatherings became more common, it worked out in his favor.
“Things really shifted,” he said. “It was the right time and place. … This is where the market is going.”
His experiences are ideal right now for families planning small, intimate events.
“It’s a safe, responsible, fully fledged experience,” he said, especially with vineyards and breweries closing during the summer, or not hosting a full capacity of visitors.
“The Wine and Cheese Experience was the most popular because the vineyards were closed,” he said. “It literally saved me.”
While the pandemic was hard on him and his businesses right at the start of his busy season, he said it worked out and now he’s booked solid for the near future. “During this climate, we can easily have the party of your dreams in your backyard,” he said.
Druthers Coffee: 1113 North Country Road, Stony Brook
Kathryne Piazzola, Zachary Russell and Michael Buchholz had their plans to open a local coffee shop set for some time. Their goal was to open Druthers right across from Stony Brook University in a new center being built, Stony Brook Square.
“We signed the lease three years ago,” Piazzola said. “And we were hoping to open actually in January.”
But there were some construction delays and then the virus hit Long Island. After a few hurdles, they finally opened officially on Aug. 14. With their opening, they had to change their plans a little to fit into the new state health guidelines, like not allowing guests to bring their own glassware while still trying to be sustainable without many paper cups.
“Nevertheless, we’ve really developed an incredible following of regulars,” Buchholz said. “Everybody who comes by is truly so understanding about the circumstances that makes it so much easier.”
While continuously changing their opening date, and finishing the painting, decorating and preparing, they also had to go through the Paycheck Protection Program. “We knew we were going into it with a limited budget, we had to operate as intelligently as we possibly could,” Buchholz said. “So, navigating federal loan programs was not at all easy, while finding our footing and feeling confident about everything that we had spent three years planning.”
Piazzola said three months later things are running smooth.
“You start talking to people and meeting our guests when they were first coming in,” Buchholz added. “And it just turned out that it’s exactly what people needed. They wanted an experience that felt welcoming and warm, and a bit of hospitality from the heart of a small business that had the human story behind it.”
Even with support from the community, they’re beginning to get a little anxious about the upcoming winter. “Rather than planning for growth in the way that we wanted to do initially, we’re planning for winter that might be a little bit more challenging,” Buchholz said. “There’s still things that we’re wrapping our heads around, but it’s been surprisingly gratifying.”
Osteria Umbra: 197 Terry Road, Smithtown
It’s always been chef Marco Pellegrini’s dream to open a fine dining restaurant, and when he found the space in Smithtown over a year ago, he knew it was where he belonged.
A chef from the age of 14, Pellegrini comes from the ancient Italian town of Foligno in Umbria. He and his family moved to the United States seven years ago to partner with another restaurant out on the North Fork. The partners decided to go their separate ways and Pellegrini moved west.
“Everywhere I stopped from Mineola to the south, I was not impressed,” he said.
Then he found Smithtown. He said he visited the area when he first came to the U.S. and was impressed by the family oriented community.
“It’s more what I’m looking for,” he said.
Together with his wife, Sabrina Vallorini, and partners — Stephen, Diane and Daniel Bragoli — they signed the contract in September 2019. From that point on, they renovated the whole space, decorated it with marble, chandeliers, wine racks and an open-oven BBQ imported from Italy. Their goal was to open in March.
Although it was an uncertain and scary time, they made the most of it. Pellegrini, his wife and their partners took on the renovations themselves, painting the space and completing it at their own pace. The restaurant officially opened Sept. 9, more than six months past its planned date.
But the uncertainty of another virus wave is stressful. “I really want to try and stay open,” he said. “We just have to cross the bridge until the end of COVID right now, and run the restaurant without losing money.”
He’s still hopeful, because he stands behind his brand. Pellegrini said that the food at Osteria Umbra is different than typical Italian — everything is made on-site, from the pasta to the gelato and the authentic Italian cuisine.
“The way we do the food in Italy is little bit different than what we’re doing here in the USA,” he said. “Usually you find more authentication in the city, Long Island there are not too much.”
ENDO Ethos: 289 Main St., Huntington
Clark and Christine Ruggeri opened their first hemp and CBD storefront in Northport last year. When space in Huntington became available, they knew to jump on it, signing their second lease in November. With the intention of opening their new location in March, COVID hit and halted their plans.
“Who would have ever imagined,” she said. “We almost backed out of it. When it came time to decide what we were going to do, we decided to go through with it anyway.”
While struggling to keep their other store afloat through e-commerce and local delivery from March until June, the Ruggeris opened their Huntington “dream location” on Aug. 1.
“I think that’s why we were able to survive the first round of quarantine, because people that we didn’t even know were ordering from our website,” she said. “This might be the opportunity for people who don’t want to buy online but feel really stressed or anxious or can’t sleep … there are people who needed this space, and that’s why we decided to do it.”
She added that as they had the space since November 2019, they already had so much invested.
“Then you have to find a way to pay that back without making an income from the space,” she said. “We kind of felt like we had no choice.”
But since they opened, although it’s been tough, the couple said they have been able to sustain their business.
“We’re hoping that post-pandemic, it will pick up again. So, for now, as long as we can stay afloat, meet new people and introduce them to our products, I think that’s the goal,” Christine Ruggeri said.
But right now, the village isn’t as crowded as it normally would be in the pre-pandemic world.
“Huntington depends very much on the bar and restaurant scene,” she said. “With the bar and restaurant scene being so minimal right now, you can definitely feel the impact of that on the street.”
Although the couple are concerned about the upcoming winter, they said it might work out in their favor since CBD, which stands for Cannabidiol, was an explosive market before COVID.
“Hemp or CBD might be the thing that people need right now,” she said. “Maybe we’ll actually end up doing better than we thought because this is something that’s so needed.”
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