Over 7,500 miles away, there’s a small village in the state of Punjab, India. This farming area is not only beautiful but it also offers delicious food previously unattainable in Wasatch County. But now, Heber City has a direct channel to Punjab. It’s called Little India.
Traversing an Ocean
It all started in 1997. Harjeet Singh was living in Northern India on a family farm. He decided to pack up his things and move to the United States, which he knew to be the “Land of Opportunity.” He had family living in Utah and decided to settle near them in the Salt Lake area. “When we came to the United States there were lots of kinds of opportunities,” he remembers, “but we chose the restaurant business because cousins and friends were in this business.”
Harjeet and two relatives started an Indian restaurant called Bombay House. It was extremely successful. Eventually, the three owners split the business into three different restaurants — Bombay Garden, Mumbai House, and Bombay House. Harjeet kept Bombay Garden in West Jordan, which continues to have great success.
One of Harjeet’s cousins had worked with him since 2006. “He is a very good worker,” Harjeet explains, “and I trust him a lot.” In 2021, the cousins decided to form a partnership and open another restaurant, this time in American Fork. They called it Little India, and everyone loved it. People came from all over to eat there. They even came from the Heber Valley!
“In American Fork, thanks to God and the community, that place was very successful and very blessed,” says Harjeet. “And we had lots of customers from the Heber/Midway area. Before they leave, they always tell us, ‘You guys are very good. Come to Heber.’”
Traversing a Mountain
The family considered Heber, but they thought it was a pretty small community for an Indian restaurant. “One day, our whole family was on Deer Creek Lake on a Sunday, and I checked on the map and Heber was just like three or four miles from there,” Harjeet recalls. “I said, ‘Why don’t we go check on the market in Heber,’ and we just drove around.” The family agreed that it was probably too small of a community.
However, Harjeet’s interest in the Heber Valley was still piqued. “I discussed it with a realtor,” says Harjeet, “and he said, ‘Heber is growing — think about it.’ And we decided to take a chance.” But they still needed a location. One morning, the realtor told Harjeet that a great place had just become available. It was a newer building built for a Culver’s, but that business had recently closed. They took a look and the whole family liked the building and discussed their options. They decided to move forward together, with Harjeet, his brother Manjit Singh, and his cousin Maninderpal Singh as owners. Harjeet’s children, Attar Singh and Bineet Kaur, were also very involved.
Harjeet remembers that they had only a “50/50 mind” about it. It was a “nervous beginning,” he says. But they saw great possibilities and the reconstruction of the building began. “Even before we opened, our goal was to make the place beautiful with a cultural vibe and cultural food,” explains Harjeet. “As we bring authentic Indian food to Heber, we also wanted to bring a little bit of India here.” The family provided cultural pictures to local artist Jacob Fernandez, and he used them to paint murals all over the interior walls of the building. According to Bineet, “They all have a meaning behind them. All of the murals on the walls are from actual pictures of India. So, this is what India really looks like. The mural with the tractor on it, that’s actually from a picture I took in India. I just gave it to the artist who drew our murals. So, not only can people enjoy authentic Indian food, but they can also look around and picture as if they were in India.” Little India’s cultural vibe also includes soft sitar music and servers native to India.
If You Build It, They Will Come
After all the hard work they’d put into the restaurant, the family was eager to welcome customers. But they had no idea how eager the community was to come. “What we expected — it was a day and night difference,” says Harjeet. “The first day we ran out of food and had to close 2 hours early.” Bineet adds, “For the first 3 days actually.” The restaurant was immediately filled with people and was an instant success! “I don’t have a word for our customers … how much they love and support us over here,” says Harjeet. “We are blessed to be a part of the community.”
Obviously, the food is a big hit here in Heber. “Sometimes people think that Indian food is very spicy, but what we do here is we make it mild,” explains Bineet, “and you get to choose your spice from mild, medium, or hot. We just want people to get familiar with the food because it is great food.” When asked to name his favorite dish, Harjeet says, “Everything is my favorite!” Bineet suggests that, “Chicken Tikka Masala is the most popular, but we are known for our Butter Chicken.”
People don’t only come to Little India for the food. Many visitors want to walk around and take pictures. Most customers take a picture with the Taj Mahal mural at the front of the restaurant.
And then there’s the tractor.
“Some people love their car, and some people love their motorcycle, but I love my tractor,” says Harjeet, with a big smile. Harjeet recently had it shipped to Heber. Now, the blue tractor is parked in front of the restaurant. It came straight from his farm in India, where he’d restored it and added custom wheels, music, and lighting. There’s even a mural of Harjeet and his tractor inside the restaurant. The community loves Harjeet’s blue tractor as well! One night several customers had an impromptu dance party accompanied by the tractor’s lights and music!
“We want them to be lifelong customers and have a different type of relationship with them,” Bineet explains. “Not only are they coming for the great food, but they’re coming for the ambiance and the staff and everything. We want them to feel comfortable and have fun here.”
Heber loves Little India, and Little India loves them back.
Little India has been donating meals to first responder groups, such as the fire department, the sheriff’s department, and the police department. They are also planning to take food to the hospital employees.
“We just want to give back to the community,” says Bineet. “We’ve seen openings before, but the opening we had here was unexpected … so, we just want to give back a little bit.”
Now, this fantastic family from India has become residents of the Heber Valley too. “I always used to talk to my family about living in a community that’s smaller, where everyone’s just like family,” says Bineet. “And so, one of my dreams came true by moving to Heber because it is a small community and everyone’s so supportive and loving.”
Harjeet adds, “[Being in Heber] is a totally different experience in the United States than I’ve had. I don’t have a word to say how much I love this community actually.”
The feeling is mutual. Welcome! We are so glad you are here!
Spice Up Your Day!
1266 South Hwy 189 Heber City.