The first Indian restaurant in Oklahoma closed its doors Aug. 9 after 40 years of operation.
Nasir Ghouri, the owner of Misal of India Bistro, said closure of the restaurant was due to declining community support and his personal burnout after running the business for so long.
“I’ve been doing everything — I’ve been waiting tables, I’ve been cooking, just whatever needs to be done,” Ghouri said. “The job has been all-consuming. I haven’t had a vacation in seven years.”
Ghouri started Misal of India Bistro with his cousin Neelam Misal in 1979 on Campus Corner. There were no Indian restaurants in Oklahoma at the time, and people came from Tulsa, Oklahoma City and even Dallas to eat at the restaurant, Ghouri said.
The restaurant moved to Parkway Plaza Shopping Center in 2000. But because of Lindsey Street and Interstate 35 construction, customers in the shopping center started to dwindle, he said.
“People, they prefer chains and they prefer other kinds of food, not this kind of food that is freshly prepared and made with attention and love,” Ghouri said. “A lot of people just don’t get it.”
But for Misal’s loyal customers, losing the restaurant is “devastating,” he said.
Misal's was the first Indian cuisine that Carolyn Mahin, a Bartlesville native who has been visiting the restaurant since the 1980s, had ever tried. She said she was an “ardent fan,” and Ghouri always recognized her when she came in.
“(Misal's) is how I judge all other Indian foods,” Mahin said. “That was my first experience, and I loved it.”
Ghouri served four to five generations of customers, who have been leaving flowers and cards by the front door and posting about the restaurant on Facebook, he said.
“That was the best part,” Ghouri said. “I had the coolest customers.”
For now, Ghouri said he intends to spend time reflecting and finding himself.