As restaurants reopen in the Merrimack Valley, patrons are eager – yet apprehensive – to dine in again. Local restaurants have been getting creative as they extend seating into parking lots, alleyways and sidewalks. Some city centers have temporarily closed their streets for the warmer months. Street closures increase foot traffic and have been common in places like Montreal, where the cobblestone streets are alive with festivals, street performances and al fresco dining.
As we ease into social visits with friends and family, consider the many restaurants in our area that rely on the community to keep their doors open. Eating outside allows us to enjoy our surroundings and bask in the fresh air, while supporting local businesses.
I have always had the most wonderful experiences eating at Raagini Indian Bistro in Andover, Mass., which now offers outdoor seating as well as indoor. One of the first restaurants I ventured to after moving to the area five years ago, Raagini was then a walkable option with my newborn in the stroller. It became a destination to meet friends for the lunch buffet and is a great date night spot.
Snack on the Samosas – fresh, hot, crispy turnovers stuffed with spiced potatoes, peas and ground lamb meat. Hints of coriander and other spices are complemented by the fresh cilantro and mint chutney. For a vegetarian option, try the flavorful fritters, vegetable pakora. There are many protein options for all the dishes, and everything is reasonably priced.
The Chicken Tandoori was phenomenal, and just as good to eat for leftovers. The bone-in chicken is marinated in yogurt, acting as a natural tenderizer to the meat, which is cooked in a clay oven, or Tandoor. Served sizzling hot, Tandoori chicken is a wonderful introductory dish for those new to Indian cuisine. Raagini offers other Tandoori options including minced lamb and salmon.
Chicken Curry is always a solid choice, and being able to choose your preferred level of heat assures you’ll feel satisfied. You can also find vegetable, seafood, goat, and lamb curry options at Raagini.
Although I enjoy the flavor of curry and cooking style of tandoori, I also like trying new dishes, which introduce us to the geography and history of a region. Raagini opened my eyes to a new favorite, Chicken Chili Masala. The boneless tandoori chicken is cooked with green chili, onions, peppers and spices. Its surprising sweetness is a welcoming companion to the hot peppers. Embrace the cleansing heat of Indian food, and be sure to order enough Naan for soaking up the spicy sauces.
For those not yet ready to eat out, Indian cuisine makes for great takeout. Enjoy your favorites while listening to the calming “Raga” of Indian musician Ravi Shankar in the comfort of your own home.
The staff at Raagini have always been warm, and coming here feels like going home for a meal. Enjoy a refreshing mango lassi while feasting on a spread of vibrant, soul satisfying food.