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Little India

Hillcroft and Raja Sweets have become the epicenter of Houston's vibrant Indian population.

That decision led Raja Sweets to close its doors on Tuesdays, the first time in its history that it hadn't been a seven-day-a-week operation. Soon, other businesses followed suit. It was nice to have one day a week off, and Tuesday seemed as good a day as any, noted Yatin Patel. Once again, Raja Sweets was setting a trend along Hillcroft, one that continues in most Indian restaurants to this day.

Sharan still keeps the place closed on Tuesdays and mostly runs things these days, although Resham is almost always there as well. They speak a mixture of Hindi, Urdu, English and occasionally Spanish to their many customers, Resham usually speaking Punjabi when it's just her and Sharan.

The 25th anniversary party was not just a milestone year for the restaurant, either: Resham will turn 60 this year.

...in the newly designated Mahatma Gandhi District.
Photos by Groovehouse
...in the newly designated Mahatma Gandhi District.

Location Info

Map

Raja Quality Restaurant & Sweets

5667 Hillcroft
Houston, TX 77036

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Details

READ MORE
BLOG POST: Little India: The Reflection of a Small but Vibrant Community
BLOG POST: Desi Living, Houston-Style

At this age, is she ready to retire? Sharan laughs. "According to her accountant, she can't retire until she's 65."

"My mom is really active," Sharan says. "Even when the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays. She says she feels more tired when she's at home not doing anything because she's so used to coming here every day. She's one of the most hardworking people I know."

Sharan isn't quite sure of Raja Sweets' ultimate direction in the next 25 years, but she mentions wanting to expand into the lucrative wedding business. "Indians spend more money on their weddings than they do on houses," she says with a smile, sitting across from Aku Patel in his office one sunny afternoon. "It's crazy."

She calls Patel "Uncle" with a distinct fondness. He and Sharan reminisce about Yogi and his enthusiasm for the Mahatma Gandhi District, how excited he would be to see its progress these days.

"Her dad had a vision," Patel says. "He was always telling me how the Indian market had mushroomed in the United Kingdom."

"He said one day the same thing will happen here in America."

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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28 comments
Mike
Mike

What a great story!

Check out Shanai - the Pakistani buffet off 59, behind Bijan Persian Grill. Incredible food and simply incredible service. A client of mine from Mumbai turned me onto this restaurant, and I have been going ever since. And if you are counting calories and on a diet, you can find some great veggie and grilled items here. Little India is the jewel in our city's eye.

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

I really like the name "Little India" for the Hillcroft area as it signifies they really have come of age.

And it's simple to understand and remember.

It reminds me of the story about Wisconsin residents in the early part of last century who were trying to come up with a name for their new opera house.

After much debate and long winded discussions they decided to name their opera house ...Opera House.

Simple and people know just exactly what you are talking about.

Great article. I learned a bunch!

jacktyler
jacktyler

Nice article, Katharine. I had lunch in the area on Friday at London Sizzler (at the corner of Hillcroft and SW Freeway) and there are a lot of fun businesses around there. In fact there is a "sweets" store next door to the restaurant (owned by the same people) and we took a box of 'em with us.

Megan
Megan

*sigh* This is one of the things I miss about Houston. Kansas City has nothing like Hillcroft, and it's a damn shame.

illegal1
illegal1

Great, great, article. It makes me hungry all over agian and I just had lunch. It is one of my first stops when heading down Hillcroft and ending at Indian groceries.

John
John

Does this explain why Bhojan is closed Tuesdays as well? Fascinatin.

jodycakes
jodycakes

Great article K~This has been my little secret for years....shopping at India Grocers (cheapest rice and spices around), eating in and around the Hillcroft area for over fifteen years....I buy housewarming gifts and jewelry in this area and I have been known to buy a sari or three. I love Bollywood films and Indian House Music is probably up there with 80's music for me....great music/films to be found in this area as well.I'm sure that if I had a past life regression, I *know* that it would place me somewhere on the Goa coast or in Bombay, dressed in bright colors, eating street food....I'm positive!!!!

"....She chuckles. "He would have said, 'Now let's get the signs in Hindi.'"....." I say why not, they should be in Hindi....

Thank you again for shedding light on one my favorite places in the city. Period.

Lynn Cabrera
Lynn Cabrera

Megan - it would be interesting to hear exactly what Kansas City's desi scene is these days. Back in the early 80s, there was exactly one grocery store. And my family traveled there from 50 miles away to buy the basics.

We're lucky to have Hillcroft. :-)

Megan
Megan

Lynn - I saw your essay (it was beautiful!). Where exactly was the desi store in KC? I'd be glad to check it out and report back.

 
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