Then, 25 years ago, the Taj Mahal changed all that by getting the local curry and tandoori balls rolling with its grand opening just north of the OSU campus. As a result, many people who do time at Buckeye U wind up learning the ropes of Indian food at this hallmark institution of a family-owned business.
If over the years a slew of new Indian restaurants have sprouted up - a few of them pretty interesting and ambitious - the Taj at least has not stood still. It semi-recently moved into newer and much bigger digs, which include a sprawling patio and a cocktail-friendly lounge.
Nonetheless, it took a press release last week announcing some monthlong specials celebrating the Taj's quarter-century of longevity to induce me to write about it. I don't know why I waited so long.
Spread out over several rooms in the old Casa di Pasta space, the Taj looks like a vintage Columbus house tricked out with lots of Indian tchotchkes and knickknacks. It feels quaint and comfy in a well-worn way.
In fact, getting reacquainted with the place reminded me of a snug old jacket I wore often in college. Originally, that now old-school wrap had seemed almost exotic, but I quit wearing it when it became passe. Then one day I tried it on again and discovered the jacket still fit and, damn, if it didn't even look OK.
A great way -and a great deal - to kick off a meal here is with the mysteriously named yet really fun-to-munch Assorted Appetizer ($7.50). Expect a veggie-heavy plate loaded with a terrific samosa (a not-too-thick savory pastry with a spunky pea and potato filling) plus several crunchy, easy-to-love, breaded and fried (yet too greasy) pakora-type nibbles sprinkled with an eggy-tasting (from black Indian salt) chaat masala seasoning mix.
Entree-wise, I went with a couple of classic rockers (each $15) that I long ago cut my subcontinent teeth on at the old Taj Mahal. And both the Chicken Tikka Masala (boneless, skinless breast chunks in a potent tomato curry/gravy popping with chili heat slightly smoothed out with stewed tomatoes, cooked onions and green peppers) and the Lamb Vindaloo (stewy chunks of lamb intensified by a tawny-colored, deeply flavored curry brightened with a splash of vinegar) managed to ignite a familiar party in my mouth.
If, like me, you've been playing the field and neglecting your first Indian-food flame, then January's Taj specials are a great reason to catch up with the hot-curry love that originally turned you on. G.A. says party on, Taj.
Throughout the month of January, Taj Mahal will donate 5 percent of sales from each Tuesday to the Salvation Army. Also, on Sundays, guests with a current OSU ID receive 15 percent off food orders. Daily specials are as follows:
Monday nights: Buy one entree, get the second for half-price
Tuesdays: Half-off drinks all day
Wednesdays: Half-off appetizers all day
Thursday nights: $10 bottles of Sula Indian wines
Friday nights: Live tabla fusion music
Saturday nights: 25 percent off Taj exclusive cocktails
Sunday nights: $1 lassi and $3 martinis