Dining With Denise Neil

Owner of troubled Wichita restaurant ready to focus full attention, reopen – again

Mumbai Rail, the Indian restaurant that occupies the old train depot building at Union Station, 711 E. Douglas, has been through several openings, closings and changes since it first opened its doors in late April of 2016.

It closed for a week almost immediately after opening for retooling, then in April 2017, owner Neal Bhakta said it would close again for several months for another retooling and so that construction could be completed on an upstairs portion of the restaurant.

It reopened in June 2017 but without food service. Bhakta and his new manager Mikel Bowyer said they planned to turn the space into a cocktail lounge open only in the evenings. It would not serve lunch or dinner but would do catering.

That lasted for a while, then Bowyer quietly started offering lunch again, Bhakta said. But that ended in mid-November.

Now, Bowyer is gone, and owner Bhakta said he is ready to take over again. He just reopened the restaurant for lunch and for now is serving from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. His goal is to add dinner by the time the NCAA tournament arrives in March.

He’s had trouble remaining consistent at the restaurant for a few reasons, Bhakta said, but his main issue was that he was trying to open a Smoothie King in Derby at the same time he was opening Mumbai Rail and he couldn’t stay focused on both.

“We were stretched very thin, and I couldn't be with the restaurant,” he said. “Then my chef, he found a nicer opportunity, and so I didn’t have a team that could deliver on Indian cuisine.”

Bhatka said he thinks he has that problem fixed now. He’s working on a new system for the kitchen, and his focus will be on consistency.

He’s still offering a variety of Indian dishes that are displayed at the counter, and customers can peruse the offerings then create their own plates for $9.95.

The upstairs section of the restaurant now is complete, too, and Bhakta said he’s going to call it Mead Street Venue and use it for private parties and overflow seating on busy nights.

He’s still deciding whether to add table service or keep his order-at-the-counter setup.

The location has been an issue, Bhakta said. He’s not permitted to hand any large signage at Union Station, and the restaurant is too hidden, he says.

“It makes it hard for people to find us.”

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