Local restaurateur brings a taste of home in every venue he opens

Shafi Gaffar.
Eddy Marenco

For fans of curry or even newbies to the cuisine, you now have three brand new opportunities to try out some homestyle Indian dishes in the City of Brotherly Love.

According to a release, restaurateur Shafi Gaffar recently announced the grand opening of three new restaurants with his brand, Kurry Shack. The three locations opened this past Friday, Aug. 27 in Old City (6 N. 3rd Street), Rittenhouse (2101 Chestnut Street) and Francisville (1839 Poplar Street), and each location will be offering take-out, dine-in and to-go options— all with a unique twist. Gaffar himself kicked off the opening with a treat that consisted of a free mango lassi and a free appetizer (mix pakoras or samosa) for the entire weekend.

“Ever since I did Tanoor and Makhani, I wanted to open my own version of a fast casual neighborhood Indian restaurant,” said Gaffar in a statement. “I wanted to do it on my own and on my own terms — with a menu I picked with Chef – in a colorful and hip dining room, with traditional dishes and some unique dishes you can’t get anywhere else. Kurry Shack is come-as-you-are and designed with the neighborhood in mind. Everyone is welcome and we hope each is a home away from home to our patrons throughout the city.”

Eddy Marenco

This “home away from home” specializes in what Gaffar says is “homestyle Indian cuisine” — which is based on North Indian cuisine, cooking style and recipes. Patrons who head to any of the multiple locations can pick through standard dishes (some with a modern take on the traditional meal) as well as a selection of desserts, beverages and other special items.

The release also states that for the menu, Gaffar also realized the growing demand for gluten-free and vegan items, as well as more vegetable items in general. All appetizers and entrees can be made gluten-free except for the bread selection. The menu has a full list and outlines vegan and gluten-free dishes, to make it easy for diners.

“Gluten-free and vegan diners are not an afterthought,” continued Gaffar in his statement. “From the opening of our doors, we have special dishes made to cater to their palate. These days it’s not enough to adapt some dishes creating tasty and hearty gluten-free and vegan dishes is something a restaurant needs to do right out of the gate.”

Each location will also features some one-of-a-kind menu items that are special for that neighborhood, and that also goes for the aesthetic as well. This uniqueness was put into work after opening the first-ever Kurry Shack location in South Philadelphia (2015 E Moyamensing Ave.) in 2019. Gaffar renovated the dining room, including the installation of working with local artists on a full chalk mural wall of the Taj Mahal, painting and stenciling, installation of the front prep area and dark, rich wood counter, testing and development for the self-ordering kiosks, and other improvements.

Eddy Marenco

“I wanted to create a hip, colorful and welcoming vibe for our neighbors,” continues Gaffar. “I want everyone to feel welcome no matter if you are stopping by on your way from the office to your home, or if you are casual and around the corner and want to come as you are, or I wanted to have an attractive look that also was appropriate for special events and neighborhood events/ parties. It has a very different look and feel than my past restaurants – and I hope everyone will feel welcome and check us out.”

For the Francisville location, Kurry Shack offers the largest and most expansive footprint for indoor and outdoor dining in the former home of Gin and Pop. Just like the original South Philadelphia location, Kurry Shack Francisville is also a s BYO, however, the location has a permanent bar as its centerpiece where there is a full draft system pouring Inspired Brews kombucha. Also, to creatively use the bar space, and cater to a very family oriented area, the bar will serve a selection of fun mocktails alongside more traditional Indian drinks. The food menu also features this location’s signature dishes, lamb chops and lamb shanks.

In Old City, the former home of Mekhani is now the historic part of the city’s Kurry Shack. This location will specialize in delivery for Old City, Society Hill, Spring Arts, Northern Liberties, Fishtown and surrounding neighborhoods with a front-row seat as guests to seeing your food prepared while you wait inside. The release states that for featured items and secret menu items specific to Old City, Gaffar wanted to pay homage to Makhani (which he hopes will return some day after the pandemic). He also wanted to be responsive to his Makhani regulars that fell in love with his special dishes, including the mango-featured selections that were inspired by his childhood days on a mango farm with his grandparents. Think the mango chicken as well as the Philadelphia Magazine Best of Philly award-winning mango cheesecake, plus other specials and dishes from that menu.

Finally, in Center City, the now fourth location of Kurry Shack opened in the former home in the Star of David Deli. This location is similar to the Old City venue being designed with take-out, pick-up, and delivery in mind with a larger kitchen but smaller front end. Also unique to this location, guests can look for special lunch options for under $10 only available there for these times to support the returning office workers coming back to the city.

Eddy Marenco

Gaffar, who was born in Bangladesh and moved to Philadelphia before he was five years old, has had his hand in the Philly food scene for quite some time, but that impact has just gotten immensely larger—and tastier.

For more information on any of Gaffar’s Kurry Shack locations, visit kurryshack.com