Michigan’s Best Local Eats: Saffron Serves Indian Cuisine at Lunch Buffet in Kalamazoo

Saffron, an Indian restaurant on the west side of Kalamazoo, has restarted its popular lunch buffet — much to the delight of its many fans.

After a two-and-a-half-year wait, the restaurant reopened the buffet last month, offering it Wednesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

And it includes all the old favorites. There are 11 dishes each day, seven of which are daily standards: tandoori chicken, naan bread, raita (yogurt with mint and cucumber), rice pudding and “sensational salad”, made up of fresh fruits and vegetables in a vinaigrette. mint, more plain and saffron rice.

There is also a meat starter and three vegetable dishes each day, a rotation of dishes such as chicken curry, lamb keema, meatballs, Indian style cauliflower, lentils, chickpeas in a savory sauce, paneer cheese cooked in a coconut yogurt korma sauce and more.

“It’s like before,” said Sheetal Singh, who owns and operates Saffron with her husband, Channi. “We didn’t cut anything.

The only difference is the price: before the pandemic, the buffet was $13. It is now $18, due to higher food and staff costs.

Customers took the price increase in stride, Singh said.

“People are like, well, for the kind of food we get, it’s worth it,” she said.

Indeed, on a recent Wednesday, lunch customers were waiting for a table to become available.

“We had no problem” attracting customers, Singh said. “All the customers who came to the buffet are back, and they’re all like, ‘We missed it!’ … Someone said, ‘I haven’t met my friend for two years because every time we met, we met at the buffet and then we couldn’t do it anymore.’ »

Located in the Tiffany’s Village mall on West Main Street, Saffron opened in 2003. Its proximity to downtown and the campuses of Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College, as well as its Indian cooking skills du Nord-Ouest, quickly attracted a regular clientele. .

Then the pandemic hit, which closed the restaurant in March 2020. When Saffron reopened in June, it was only takeout – and just for dinner. Over time, the Singhs have expanded their days and hours, adding a packed lunch and dinner takeout and catering service.

But the buffet remained on hold. One issue was staffing; the pre-pandemic team had found other jobs and the job market has since tightened considerably. Another issue was supply chain issues. The buffet requires a variety of daily dishes, and the Singhs feared they wouldn’t be able to provide the consistency that diners were accustomed to.

“Sometimes (suppliers) ran out of lamb,” Sheetal Singh said. “Sometimes there was no more chicken or rice, all the ingredients we need to make things. You can’t start a buffet and then say, “We don’t have chicken,” especially when it was one of the staples of the buffet.

But the supply chain seems to be stabilizing in recent months, she said, which has given them confidence to reopen the buffet, especially since the buffet is only three days a week (the restaurant is open Monday-Saturday for dinner) and that they don’t open an extra side room during lunch time.

“Once we have more help, we will return to our normal hours” of offering the lunch buffet six days a week and reopening the side room to expand seating, she said.

The restaurant is also doing good business at dinner, although the ratio of takeout orders to restaurant service has increased since the pandemic, Singh said.

The dinner menu consists of a range of cooked-to-order dishes, from starters such as samosa (savory Indian turnovers) and pakoras (a type of vegetable fritter) to an array of vegetarian dishes, fruit seafood, lamb and chicken, as well as a variety of Indian breads as well as a full bar service.

Appetizer prices range from $13 for mutter aloo, a vegetarian dish made with peas and potatoes, to $17 for most lamb and seafood dishes. Appetizers do not include the rice, which must be purchased separately.

As with many restaurateurs, the years have been difficult for the Singhs. But they give their loyal customers a lot of credit for helping them out.

“If we had had the same food, just as good, but we were in a bigger city like Chicago and not Kalamazoo, I’m sure we would have had to shut down,” Sheetal Singh said. “We have been able to stay in business because of all the community support we have. We are very, very grateful. »

Saffron is located at 1710 W. Main St., a few doors down from Tiffany’s Wine and Spirit Shoppe. The buffet lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from Wednesday to Friday. A regular dinner menu is served from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

For more information, go online at www.saffronkzoo.com or call 269-381-9898.

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