a crab with blue legs on the concrete outdoors
September 8, 2022

Tava's Patel Creates Affordable and Accessible Indian Street Food

You gotta hustle. Words that many independent restaurateurs live by, and Chef Manish Patel, owner of Tava Indian Street Food, epitomizes.

The 35-year old native New Orleanian was operating a stall at the former Auction House Market food hall in early 2020 when the COVID pandemic hit. To prepare for the temporary closure due to the city lockdown, the market was emptying its coolers. Not Manish. He was buying more inventory and began selling frozen curries door-to-door.

“I kept thinking ‘how can I stay alive,’” Manish recalls. “I was doing anything and everything possible.”

That’s a hustler in the best sense of the word. Hard work is in his DNA and he’s been cooking and filling catering orders with his chef/dad, Dalpat Patel, almost his entire life. The pandemic challenged him financially and mentally, but he kept looking for opportunities and one day in late March 2020, he saw a television news segment on Chefs Brigade.

“I looked them up and called Troy (Chefs Brigade Executive Director), and we spoke for 30 minutes,” Manish recalls.

CB's Troy Gilbert, Manish and CB Program Manager April Bellow


Tava became part of Chefs     Brigade’s first brigade,   serving   meals for the New   Orleans   Police   Department’s Command   Center. Manish moved back   to  the food hall three   weeks after the shutdown, but there weren’t many orders, and when Chefs Brigade partnered with the   City’s COVID Meal Assistance program, it provided a lifeline.

“Mental health is super important.  I was in tears so often during that time,” Manish says. “Chefs Brigade helped me take my mind off the uncertainty.”

Instead of worrying, Manish was able to focus his mind on growing Tava into a stand alone restaurant. A first generation American, Indian cuisine has always been a steady influence in his cooking, but he wanted to do something different than what the typical Indian restaurant offers.

“No one in this town was doing dosa, which is a thin pancake using a fermented batter with lentils and rice, and it’s classic Indian street food,” Manish says. “It takes a certain skill set, and you didn’t see it in New Orleans.  Now it’s caught fire.”


Not long after the end of the meal assistance program, Manish signed a lease in the South Market District, and after carefully planning the renovation, menu and other details, he opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant this past March. He wanted to create a menu that was affordable and accessible, and he’s definitely accomplished that.


Manish created the restaurant’s dishes with a nod to familiar American foods such as sandwiches, sliders, and chicken wings and then infused them with his streetwise India flavors. Take the Tater Chat, which has the classic tater tots that are paired with mint and imli chutneys, yogurt, sev, mint and cilantro, and is a shareable appetizer that adults and kids can dig into. And, of course, there are plenty of dosas such as the Say Cheese that’s packed with cheddar cheese, masala potatoes and served with a variety of sauces including a spicy garlic aioli that will please any Francophile. Tava’s chicken wing offering, 65 Wings, is a heavenly match of India street food and a barroom staple that brings the heat of a Buffalo wing with kashmiri chili and cools it down with yogurt.

It’s been a wild ride for Manish Patel and Tava Indian Street Food since the pandemic’s start. But he always managed to keep his head, keep innovating, and now he’s more than surviving, he’s thriving. And that’s exactly what you would expect from a guy who’s always moving and hustling to make Indian street food a part of the New Orleans culinary community.  

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