A building at 506 Austin Ave., now littered with broken glass, beer cans and cigarette butts, will become home to a restaurant serving authentic Indian dishes called Stone Hearth Indian Cafe following a renovation that will begin later this month and cost about a half-million dollars.
Once the home to Hub Clothiers, an urban menswear store that closed in 2008, the eyesore next to Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits will receive a transformation courtesy of Dallas-based Thakor Eclectic Food Concepts LLC, company spokesman Roshan “Ross” Thakor said.
He said the aging building will get a new facade and patio for outside dining, as well as an interior renovation. A building permit issued by the city of Waco to Thakor’s father, Kiran Thakor, places the cost of the renovation at $450,000, nearly twice the $229,720 appraised value of the structure.
Roshan Thakor said the company will install a pair of tandoor ovens that traditionally are used in India to prepare food.
“The building itself will have a contemporary warehouse feel,” said Thakor, adding he hopes to unveil Stone Hearth Indian Cafe by May or June.
He said the corporation acquired the building nearly two years ago, having been sold on its potential about the time improvements to other structures along Austin Avenue began to take shape, bringing new bars, restaurants and loft apartments to an area that had fallen into disrepair decades earlier.
“We thought it was a good location from the standpoint of foot traffic, and we thought we could provide artistic appeal to the building,” Thakor said.
The Waco location likely will serve as a prototype for other authentic Indian restaurants the corporation may open in other cities under the name Stone Hearth, he said.
He said the restaurant will accommodate about 100 diners inside and outside, and he will pursue a beer and wine permit.
Though he now resides in Dallas, Roshan Thakor said he once lived in Waco and has relatives in the community who “stay on the lookout” for properties with potential.
The 3,346-square-foot building his group hopes to renovate is located near the Bank of America building in downtown Waco, a short walk from the McLennan County Courthouse. It has been vacant and has gone through at least one ownership change since it was shuttered about eight years ago.
“What was described to me was a well-thought-out concept that should prove interesting,” said Megan Henderson, executive director of the Waco Downtown Development Corp., commenting on plans for Stone Hearth Indian Cafe. “Waco has embraced such staples of international cuisine as Bangkok Royal and D’s Mediterranean Grill. They are willing to try things, and if they like them, they will patronize them. I have heard people say they would like to see great places to get Indian food.”
Meanwhile, Chris McGowan, who has formed a consulting firm for real estate development after working as director of urban development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said he has worked with Roshan Thakor for more than a year and knew about his plans to place an Indian restaurant in the heart of downtown.
“Not only is Austin Avenue getting a new restaurant, but an old building is being brought back to use, which is beneficial,” McGowan said.
Youngdae Moon, who owns a food truck called Club Sandwich that specializes in Asian-fusion cuisine, said he also heard of Thakor’s intentions.
“I love Indian food, and I’ve talked with (Thakor) several times about his plans. We’re all supportive of him,” Moon said.
Thakor declined to discuss the specific dishes the restaurant menu would include, but said the restaurant will serve authentic Indian dishes.
A website is under construction that will give fans more details about the food options and the use of the tandoor ovens in Indian culture.
The Waco area has enjoyed a taste of India courtesy of the Tandoori Trailer, a food truck based at Franklin Avenue and University Parks Drive.
Co-owner Johnny Bhojwanit came to work in Baylor University’s admissions office in 2011 only to discover the nearest Indian restaurant was in Killeen.
Houston resident Naresh Thadani was looking for a business in which to invest, and Bhojwani suggested creating an Indian-cuisine food truck.
The two are partners and run the business with Thadani’s wife, Disha, who is in charge of recipes and menus.