116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Zameer Khan went to school for engineering, but discovered along the way that what he loved was the restaurant industry.
Khan studied chemical engineering before moving to the United States in 1998. He was living in Texas when a friend's uncle got him a job selling Beanie Babies in Iowa, so he moved north. He then went on to finish his degree at Kirkwood Community College and has been here ever since.
While he was studying, he was working at area restaurants, including Taste of India in Iowa City. There, he learned to cook when he volunteered one day to help the owner, who was vegetarian, prepare lamb and chicken dishes. He kept working at restaurants on the side while working for tech companies in the Corridor before deciding to dive into food full time. He managed a few other restaurants before opening his own fast-casual Indian lunch spot, Zaika, in the Old Capitol Town Center food court in 2008. He closed it in 2015 after getting married and having a baby because it was too hectic running a restaurant with a newborn at home, he said.
Now, he and his wife, Shahana Sulthana, have decided the time is right to enter the restaurant world again. The couple opened Bollywood Grill, also in the Old Capitol Town Center, this month. They took over the spot that was Bao Chao, which closed recently after two of the co-owners moved away.
'The food is what I like; I've been cooking for so long,” Khan said. 'With Zaika I catered a lot for weddings, parties and so on. You're always part of a celebration. When you cook, you celebrate food, you celebrate the people who come and visit you. You interact with people.”
Sulthana left her job in accounting at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics when they decided to open the restaurant. She is from the city of Hyderabad in southern India, so they will serve from that region, including dosa, rice and lentil crepes stuffed with ingredients like onion and potato; idli, steamed rice and lentil dumplings; and biryani - rice and meat cooked together with spices. They also have Indian-Chinese dishes that are popular as street food, like Gobi Manchuria, cauliflower breaded and sauteed in Manchurian sauce.
'She's the one who will be bossing me around this time,” Khan joked, saying Sulthana designed the menu.
The restaurant is primarily focused on carryout and delivery via GrubHub and Uber Eats at the moment, with the Old Capitol food court seating still not open. They also offer catering, and in the future hope to open for breakfast and lunch as well.
Typical South Indian breakfast options they will serve include dosa and puri, deep fried flat bread, served with potato curry. Khan hopes customers come by to watch their food being prepared and say hello.
'I have a tandoor oven, and it's an open kitchen, so people can see me work,” he said.
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If You Go
l What: Bollywood Grill
l Where: Old Capitol Town Center, 201 S. Clinton St., Iowa City
l When: 4 to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, with plans to add breakfast and lunch in the future.
l Details: (319) 551-2381, bollywoodgrill.mobi