Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Get lesson in food at Indian grocery, Kirana

Blue Jacket opens coffee shop; Venice offers peak at new space

Mitanshu Shukla is on hand to help you navigate his Indian and South Asian grocery, Kirana, at 4916 Illinois Road.

Dean Jackson

Whatzup Features Writer

Published January 4, 2023

I was told years ago you needed five experts in your life: a doctor, an accountant, a dentist, a financial planner, and a mechanic. After a visit to Kirana, the local Indian and South Asian market, I am adding a food expert to that list, and that might be Mitanshu Shukla, and his father, Yogesh.

The shop opened in September at 4916 Illinois Road next to Kumon Learning Center in the 14 Square Shopping Plaza. Kirana is open 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. 

Kirana, just like the name means in India, is a small family market. They call it a quick stop on the corner for essential Indian foods. It’s entirely vegetarian offerings, with a number of vegan foods.

“At Kirana, if you are vegetarian, you don’t have to read the back of packages,” Mitanshu explained.

With no significant understanding of Indian food, I dove right in. I expected to be smothered with spicy food and alien flavors, but I was quickly educated. That’s where Mitanshu pushed me out of my comfort zone. 

Even though many dishes are served with curry or chili powder, turmeric, or golden milk, not everything is hot or spicy, he told me. He assured me I had control over my menu.

A few questions later and I was delighting in creamy, smooth Desi coffee, the Neapolitan-like three-layered cassata ice cream, and Magic Masala potato chips and Samosa. (Did I mention I wasn’t fond of coffee? Well, until now, anyways.)

Mitanshu is an Indian-American who grew up in Fort Wayne. He became passionate about food and the power of gathering around the table. 

He spent years cooking in restaurants and being immersed in his mother’s good cooking from childhood, saying their home is always a gathering point for neighbors, friends, family, or anyone who is hungry. 

Naturally, he has a lot of ideas about mashing up traditional American cuisine with Indian offerings to make a powerful dish.

“That’s the adventure,” he said. “You should get all the seasoning and experimenting. See how it turns out.”

It’s like a lab with seemingly endless possibilities. It’s full of fresh discoveries and almost limitless learning. He says you should approach cooking just as an artist approaches a painting, and that’s with a full pallet of colors.

 “We are using all of our senses, the sights, the smells,” he said. “It’s a lot more than salt and pepper. It requires you to think outside the box. The look, the texture, the smell. If the first three are there, the taste is almost always going to be there.”

And to find it, all you need is a little guidance. That’s a core value at Kirana.

“We want to make sure that anyone who isn’t familiar with them has their own personal shopping aid,” he explained. “Food brings people together. It’s important to understand that food connects us. With it, we come together.”

When it’s right, the world is right. At least at that home.

“The family that cooks together, eats together, laughs together, stays together,” he said. 

New coffee shop is a win-win

Having just opened Tuesday, Jan. 3, Tall Rabbit Café is all about you grabbing a drink or a snack while the workers get an opportunity to improve their lives.

Located at 2001 S. Calhoun St. directly across from the Saigon Restaurant, the cafe is an homage to Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket. The nonprofit Blue Jacket Inc. runs the coffee shop and its employees are clients learning skills and gaining experience. 

The interior offers a “vintage, rustic throwback style” and lots of gathering space. It features Utopian coffee, tea, cappuccino, and hot chocolate. A menu of snacks and sweets is in the works. 

Tall Rabbit is open 7 a.m.- 2 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Blue Jacket also operates a staffing company, a professional clothing store, and a cleaning company. Their mission is to provide “anyone with a barrier who is striving to earn gainful employment.” Those barriers could be a physical disability, criminal history, language barrier, or others. 

Views from the new Venice Restaurant

We are seeing photos from remodeling work at the new Venice Restaurant on Facebook. 

It teases an opening sooner rather than later. The pictures show fresh interiors and even links to their menu. However, there’s nary a hint of where it is. We do know the original Venice Restaurant building on Goshen Road was sold. 

Those comments on the posts speculate the photos are at a downtown location. 

Sweet news for Huntertown

The national dessert chain Dairy Queen will soon open a location in the Coppermine Passage Shopping Center, just off Lima Road south of Huntertown near the Phil’s One Stop Marathon convenience store and Pizza Hut. 

Pizza Hut has been operating there about a year. 

Off the Eaten Path is the Whatzup weekly column that covers Northeast Indiana’s restaurant and food news. Send your news items to info@whatzup.com.

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