Indian restaurant set to move into Aspen Underground
May 16, 2002
Regulars at the popular burrito joint Underground Aspen are in for a rude awakening when they amble on down to the restaurant for lunch today, unless they happen to have a hankering for the spicy curries of South Asia.
Underground Aspen officially ceased operations yesterday to be replaced by Aji’s Indian Cuisine, which opens for business today.
Aji Divakar, a trained chef from Southern India and three-year resident of the Aspen area, noticed shortly after moving here that Indian cuisine was missing from the menu of restaurant choices.
He partially filled that hole a few years ago by opening a small catering business. Divakar, 27, said a number of his clients encouraged him to open a restaurant, but prohibitive rents made him reluctant. Then the city-owned property that houses Underground Aspen (and the Youth Center) came up for rent. “It’s affordable and manageable space,” Divakar said.
Divakar plans to use the same traditional methods of preparing curry and other dishes that made his food so popular with his catering customers.
“A single dish is cooked individually,” he said, describing his cooking method, which is different than most restaurants that serve curry from large, pre-made batches that vary in spiciness. In order to work dish-by-dish, however, Divakar cautions that he’ll have only a few items on the menu on any given day.
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“Lunch will be essentially a blackboard menu. There will be rice, curry, lentil and bread, but customers won’t know what kind of curry until they walk in,” he said.
Divakar said the restaurant will offer samples of its dinner menu at lunchtime for the next two weeks at $5 to $7 per plate. After Memorial Day, he will begin full service with lunch, dinner, takeout and delivery. Except for changing the decorations, he currently has no plans to remodel The Underground’s decidedly utilitarian layout.
The closing of Underground Aspen marks the end of more than seven years of to-go burritos at the restaurant that overlooks Rio Grande Park.
Owner David Laughren said that his concert promotion business, Avalanche Productions, is taking more and more of his time.
“The concert and music business has always been my passion – I’ve been doing it for 25 years,” Laughren said.