On Wednesdays, Daniel Todd shops. First, he hits up Cash & Carry for bulk items, like rice and other dry goods. Next, he heads to the Oriental Market on Trent Avenue for specialty items, like spices. Then it's over to Sonnenberg's Market & Deli on East Sprague to pick up fresh chicken and other meats featured on the week's menu. If he's still missing something, finally he'll hit up Rosauers.
The next morning, the owner of Inland Curry packs up his newly purchased foodstuffs, along with cookware, utensils and other supplies, and heads over to the Spokane Woman's Club on the lower South Hill for a long day in the kitchen.
Todd started the take-out only Indian cuisine venture last June, not long after his family moved to Spokane in January, but since then he's established a local following, including many regulars who come by each week to pick up orders of traditional Indian dishes like lamb saag (a spiced, marinated dish), dal (red lentil curry), naan bread, basmati rice and various rotating curries.
"I don't have much background in food — I'm not a foodie or anything, but I love to cook and I love food," Todd says.
He began honing those cooking skills more than a decade ago while his family was living in Guatemala, where he was taught how to prepare authentic Thai food (still his personal favorite cuisine) by a native of the Asian country whom he'd befriended.
Since moving from the Midwest to the Inland Northwest, Todd has also spent more time with Sandpoint-based family friends Pete and Fiona Hicks, who own Curry in a Hurry, a similar pop-up style restaurant that's currently on hiatus as its owners work toward opening a permanent location.
"I went up there every Monday to make Indian food for six months with Pete, who is a tremendous cook and spent time in India and learned from friends there how to cook," Todd explains.
Todd also credits his friend with helping to get Inland Curry off the ground. In addition to the small business's weekly shopping and cooking days, Todd also teaches a couple of online English college courses for a school outside the region.
Each week, Inland Curry's featured menu is posted online several days in advance, usually on Sunday night or Monday morning, after which customers can place and pre-pay for orders to then pick up in the late afternoon and early evening of Thursday. Walk-in orders are also offered during that time, from 4 to 6:30 pm.
Todd starts prepping the menu around 9 am, often receiving help from his wife Kristin, 19-year-old daughter Mallory, and two sons Cristian, 15, and Dominic, 10. His days don't usually end until the kitchen is all cleaned up, as late as 12 hours later.
Residents of the neighborhood surrounding the Woman's Club, where the family also lives, have become weekly customers of Inland Curry since its launch more than six months ago. Todd estimates that he sells orders of varying sizes to an average of 35 to 40 customers each week.
"It's so cool to see half a dozen people who come each week," Todd says. "I didn't anticipate it — I didn't know what would happen. The neighborhood has been incredibly supportive and it's been a cool way to meet neighbors and meet interesting people. I've even had a few Indian customers come in and they came back, and that was super encouraging, too."
Inland Curry sells its entrees in 12- or 16-oz. portions (averaging between $9 and $15 each), with various sides available as well, including basmati rice ($2) and naan ($3/two pieces). The larger of the two portions is plenty for two people to share, Todd says, while the 12 oz. is enough for one.
Each week, he prepares at least four curries: two with meat (usually chicken, lamb or beef) and two that are vegetarian, like the red lentil-based dal. Todd's favorite dish, which he features on the menu at least a few times a month, is called lamb madras, a coconut milk-based curry.
"Everything is made from scratch each week, except the naan, and complimentary masala chai tea to warm yourself up," he says. "We started selling the chai because people liked it so much."
The traditional black tea drink, a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, clove and milk, is sold in 12-oz cups for $2 each.
When it comes to bringing the heat to his Indian food, and since all the dishes are prepared in bulk, Todd cooks at what most would consider a mild spice rating. For customers who like a bit more kick, Inland Curry offers a complimentary chile chutney — made from serrano chiles, onion, lemon juice and salt — to customize the spice intensity of individual portions.
While Todd doesn't have plans yet to extend his hours to lunchtime operations or more than one day a week, he is working on a new monthly dinner series that kicks off this month, featuring traditional international cuisines with menus prepared by members of the regional refugee community.
On Friday, Jan. 12, Inland Curry is hosting its first event in that series, with a menu prepared by local Nepalese refugee Pingala Dhital. Tickets for the dinner aren't on sale just yet, but Todd estimates the cost will be around $40 per person. So far, the night's menu includes saag (a mustard greens curry), black lentils, thebe (pickled carrot and radish), mixed vegetables and zeera (cumin) rice. Tickets will be pre-sold on Inland Curry's website for the limited seating meal. Todd has an Afghan-themed menu planned for February's event.
"I hope to use Inland Curry as a platform to help these folks show up and cook something, and get the community together to get to know them and their food," Todd explains. "That is something I am really passionate about." ♦
See menus and order online at inlandcurry.com.