Vajra, an Indian Nepalese restaurant in West Town, will close this weekend

Vajra, a Nepalese Indian restaurant in West Town that has made a name for itself serving upscale classic dishes such as tandoori venison, goat steak and lobster momos, will close its doors on Sunday, June 19, after three years, announced its owners. on Instagram earlier this week.

The restaurant has come through the pandemic more or less intact, says co-owner Dipesh Kakshapaty, speaking on behalf of the management team. The dining room closed in March 2020 – for good, it turned out – but Vajra did a good business with takeout and delivery, although some of the more fancy dishes had to be cut from the menu. It was after the pandemic restrictions were lifted that the problems started.

“We started to get a little scared about the future,” Kakshapaty says. “The present is fine. But the deferred payments are coming due, we have to pay our taxes, there’s the rising cost of labor and food and everything. The margins are getting thinner and thinner. We wanted to make sure we weren’t digging ourselves into a bigger hole.

The lease for their storefront on Chicago Avenue was not due to expire for another year, but the owners decided to see if they could find someone to take over. If no one was interested, they persevered, but soon after they started inquiring, Mo Carter, the owner of Sketch, an Afro-Asian fusion restaurant, offered to take over. Sketch will open in mid-July.

The owners’ biggest concern, Kakshapaty says, was the fate of its employees, especially the chef, Min Thapa. Thapa had worked with Kakshapaty at his former restaurant, Cumin in Wicker Park, and his cooking had been instrumental in Vajra’s success, which included two years on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list and a Jean Banchet nomination. He had also survived a bout with colon cancer in 2019, and the owners didn’t want to leave him unemployed.

Luckily, Thapa and two other chefs have found a home at Rishi, a takeout-only Indian restaurant near River West. Owner Pravin Khadka also worked with Kakshapaty at Cumin. “People love [Thapa’s] food wherever he goes,” says Kakshapaty. The other remaining employees also found work elsewhere.

So now the owners are at peace with the decision, Kakshapaty says. “The industry is in constant transition right now,” he says. “Whatever Vajra has achieved in the past, the leader will repeat the same magic. It’s a bittersweet moment, but it’s for good. Everything that came out of it was good.

vajra1329 W. Chicago Avenue, open 5-9 p.m. daily, take-out and delivery only.

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