By Raleigh Burleigh
Sopris Sun Correspondent
For over two decades, the Roaring Fork Valley has enjoyed authentic Nepalese cuisine thanks to the cherished restaurant next to Thunder River Market along Highway 82 between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. Although ownership has changed several times, the restaurant remains a consistent choice for local diners since it first opened in 1999.
Contrary to expectations, Nepal Restaurant has experienced an increase in business throughout the pandemic. Manik Sakya, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife Laxmi, attributes their success to the acknowledged health benefits of spices traditional to South Asian cuisine.
“To be healthy,” he advises, “Eat healthy and not too much.” Not only do aromatic spices enhance the colors and flavors of a dish, they also support the body’s natural defenses. Long celebrated by holistic healing systems like Ayurvedic medicine, Western science is now affirming the positive effects of common spices like coriander, mustard seed, cloves, black pepper, ginger, cardamon, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon.
Originally from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, Manik Sakya has made a career of promoting the nature, culture and cuisine of his home country. After working nearly two decades for a travel agency in Tokyo, Japan, encouraging tourists to visit Nepal, Sakya moved to Texas in 2001. He later acquired our local Nepal Restaurant from his friend Om Lohani in 2015. Sakya counts among his regulars doctors, pilots, hospital staff, and students and staff from Colorado Mountain College with a campus just up the hill.
The propitious boost in business at Nepal Restaurant coincided with the decline of another of Sakya’s shared ventures: Thor’s Grill in the Glenwood Meadows Shopping Center. This Mexican restaurant was purchased by Sakya and a partner in 2018 and shuttered earlier this year. Undiscouraged, Sakya launched Nepal Everest Restaurant in the same space on Nov. 1.
The experience of Nepal Restaurant is reinvented to suit a different dynamic at this new location. Whereas diners can expect to sit and enjoy a meal with full service at the original restaurant, Sakya is mindful that mall shoppers are more likely to be in a hurry. Therefore, Nepal Everest Restaurant offers grab-and-go service with many of the same menu items, like steamed dumplings (called momos), naan, saag, dal, korma, vindaloo, curries, and other staples of Nepalese, Indian and Tibetan cuisine.
Despite being just eight miles apart, Sakya does not anticipate that the new location will draw business away from his restaurant on Highway 82. He foresees reaching a new customer base and, so far, business has been good. Compared with the original, this new Nepal Restaurant can also accommodate many more customers at a time once COVID restrictions are relaxed.
The restaurant currently practices the same pandemic precautions that have become the new normal for the industry, like masked servers and reduced capacity with spaced seating. Asked about their plans should Garfield County slide into the “severe risk” red category on the state’s COVID-19 dial, Sakya commented on Nov. 20 that their strategy was not yet formalized. He is, however, confident in the new restaurant’s ability to weather such circumstances.
That same day, Garfield County was moved to “high risk” orange by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Meanwhile, fifteen other counties, including neighboring Mesa County, saw the elimination of indoor dining for having reached red, the next category up.
Nepal Everest Restaurant is colorfully adorned with Tibetan prayer flags and according to Sakya, it’s the beginning of what will be an even more decorated environment paying homage to the beauty of the Himalayas. The new restaurant is seeking to hire several more employees passionate about the food they serve. For more information, including the extensive menu, visit everestnepalrestaurant.com. The restaurant is open seven days a week beginning at 11am and is located at 35 Market St. in the Glenwood Meadows Shopping Center.