After a nearly 10-year hiatus, the Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant has reopened in Tyler.

Shazia Rafi and Geeta Sandhu have partnered to open the restaurant, which specializes in North Indian and Pakistani cuisine.

Mrs. Rafi, 46, who grew up in Pakistan, is the head chef and many of the menu's recipes have been passed down from her mother.

Mrs. Rafi and her husband, Mohammad Rafi, opened the first Taj Mahal on Troup Highway about a decade ago but closed it after a year. Mrs. Rafi has continued to do small catering jobs throughout the years and has had repeated requests from regular customers to reopen the restaurant.

"They all push us so hard, ‘You need to open again,'" Rafi, 47, said, adding that it was a good time her his wife to reopen Taj Mahal since their children are older.

The family also has continued to run their laundry mat through the years.

The couple moved from Pakistan to Tyler 19 years ago, primarily because it was a dry county at the time, Rafi said. They first owned a gas station but have since sold it and own the Laundry Room at 1811 ESE Loop 323.

The Rafis have been married for 27 years and have four children. Their youngest son and daughter will help out at the business, which will have at least 15 employees.

Items off the menu include Biryani (vegetarian, chicken, mutton or beef), Chana Masala, Goat Curry, Butter Chicken and Dal (lentils) Soup. They also offer Thali, a sample plate of which people can choose different things, mostly Indian food, to try.

They use a lot of fresh spices like garlic, coriander and turmeric. Rafi said they can make dishes as spicy or as mild as the customer wants.

Their homemade naan (flat bread) and dishes such as the Tandoori chicken are made in a clay oven and all of the food is kosher and made every day from scratch, he said.

Their drinks include Chai Masala, a Pakistani tea, and Mango Lassi, an energizing, health drink make with mango pulp, yogurt, milk and cream.

Rafi said they chose the building that formerly housed Quiznos on South Broadway Avenue because it is a "more visual location" with high traffic.

The week before opening, Rafi said had been receiving calls all day from people wondering when they were going to open, and several people walked into the restaurant to inquire about it. They held several soft openings before officially opening to the public on Wednesday.

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