A.J. Ghimire combined his passion for entrepreneurship and interacting with people to the food service industry in Nepal, where he was born and raised. He came to America in 2019 to work in his family’s restaurants. He says he began to mature and take the business more seriously, further learning the ropes of the industry from his uncle Dilip, the owner of Namaste.
When Dilip opened Namaste Bar & Grill in July 2023, he tasked A.J. with running the newest beachside location in the family’s chain. A.J. says the place’s concept is all about giving beachgoers what they want: a family-centered diverse and approachable menu with everything from pizzas to curries.
Pizza options range from outside-the-box choices like Indian Butter Chicken and Tandoori Chicken to pepperoni. Myriad curries with multiple vegetarian and meat options also highlight the menu, along with chicken wings in exotic flavors like Mango Masala and Aachari (a pickle-based flavor). The full bar features Indian-inspired options like the Spicy Mango-rita, Ginny Tamarind and Mumbai Mule. Dark on Mondays, hours are 12-10pm (until 10:30pm Fri/Sat) every other day.
Compare the industry in Nepal vs. America?
A.J. GHIMIRE: In Nepal, owning a restaurant is all about the customers coming in, having the food and then leaving. There’s not much personal connection or intimacy, or getting to know them on a personal level. But here in America, I enjoy the industry more because it is more like family and knowing what’s going on in each other’s lives.
What sets Namaste apart?
AJG: When we started, it was one family-based location and every time we added one, we had a different family member run it. It’s all about baby steps and having the right team in place. The employees really know the food and recipes at all five locations, and this keeps the food extremely consistent and we never compromise quality. And the recipes are not overnight recipes, they’ve been developed over 15 years. The food is a collaborative effort amongst the family, and we constantly try and perfect our recipes to stay in line with the needs of the people.
303 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, 831-713-5430; namasteindiabistro.com