Pillbox

Find the perfect snack at Kohli’s

A vibrant and colorful grocery store, Kohli’s is filled with the finest foreign foods. (credit: Chalita Maneetham | Photo Staff) A vibrant and colorful grocery store, Kohli’s is filled with the finest foreign foods. (credit: Chalita Maneetham | Photo Staff)

Kohli’s is an Indian grocery on South Craig Street, hidden between Union Grill and Lucca’s. Initially, my trip to Kohli’s was focused on getting a gallon of milk. Then, with milk off my list, I began to collect more groceries that I would usually get from Giant Eagle.

As I wasn’t familiar with Indian cuisine, wandering around Kohli’s was an entirely new experience for me. Rather than going to Kohli’s for just a gallon of milk or some onions and shallots, I went through Kohli’s for a vacation.

Opened in 1989 as a strictly Indian grocery, Sanjeev Kohli’s South Craig Street store later expanded into a general store; however, Indian and Middle Eastern ingredients are still the primary sale items.

To most students, Kohli’s is probably well known for their samosas. You can get a samosa — a fried dough snack stuffed with spiced potato — for only 90 cents. Even when it’s a little colder than you might prefer, this over-stuffed, spice-filled pocket is an affordable between-meal snack and is very filling.

Besides samosas, Kohli’s carries other ready-to-eat foods. Another big draw is their popular chicken lunch: About 150 chicken lunches are sold each day. Many of their top-selling foods are shipped from various Indian restaurants in New York or Washington D.C.

Imported goods are also shipped to Kohli’s from major Indian importers in Detroit and other cities. The spice packs they sell are the same as those used in traditional kitchens throughout India.

A well-known Indian dish is chicken tikka masala, a dish which writer Shoba Narayan called “Britain’s national dish” because it is so popular in England. With tikka masala mix purchased from Kohli’s and a cut of chicken, you are ready to create a delicious meal.

For those who pass Kohli’s on their way home, it can be a great last-minute grocery stop before making dinner. At Kohli’s you can get basics like ginger, onion, eggplant, or exotic long squashes. Kohli, the store’s owner, said that all of the store’s fresh produce is shipped from Florida.

Kohli also has a regular American grocery selection — providing customers with jars of pickles, trash bags, dish detergent, and even lasagna. Kohli’s is definitely more accessible than you’d think. In terms of business, Kohli said that the store expands and grows with the needs of customers.

Kohli’s is not just an Indian grocery store; it is a grocery store with a strong focus on Indian and other Asian cuisine, since Indians share a culinary background with some other Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern regions. Indian students may find comfort in familiar surroundings, but to me, walking into the unfamiliar setting with different aromas was like a micro-vacation. The charm of traveling is getting away from the usual routine. In this case, I found it by working my way through an unfamiliar aisle.