This article was written by Ithaca Voice Contributor Adriana Darcy
ITHACA, N.Y. — For such a small city, Ithaca has always been home to a robust restaurant scene. New Delhi Diamond’s, an Indian restaurant that has been a mainstay in Downtown Ithaca for decades recently hit a major milestone: 25 years in business.
Baldev Singh Sekhon opened the restaurant at 106 W. Green St. in 1993 with his sister, Manjinder. Three years later, his wife Kamaldeep Kaur Sekhon came from India to work as a cook, server and manager.
The first five years of running the business and building a customer base were hard, Baldev said.
“It was very stressful in the beginning because at that time there were not many customers for Indian food,” Baldev said. “In the first five years we struggled a lot.”
The key to making it through was hard work and good help, Baldev said.
Today, New Delhi Diamond’s is a popular choice in town for Indian food and is especially loved for its lunch buffet. Diamond’s was recently named “Best Lunch Buffet” in the Ithaca Times’ Best of Ithaca 2018 and it wasn’t the first time. The buffet runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week and noon to 3 p.m. on weekends.
When Baldev bought the restaurant 25 years ago, it was an American sports bar. The family kept the bar for a few years, before transforming it into a restaurant. Kamaldeep said the family wanted bring real Indian food to the community.
“Just to bring out real Indian food, like home food,” Kamaldeep said. “Not too much spice and all that. Less salt, less spice, less oil like we make it at home.”
Kamaldeep says that they have been so successful due to their location and their unique food.
“Location matters and what experience you have and how many more restaurants there are with the same food,” Kamaldeep said. “Usually if you have unique food you will be successful. A restaurant always takes time to make customers and to come up.”
Baldev believes that the effort put in, quality of the food and the price are what keeps customers coming back, despite an increase in other Indian restaurants in the area.
“Hard work and serving high-quality food will keep us going strong,” Baldev said.
Some of the most popular menu items at the restaurant are the chicken tikka masala and the chicken curry. Some of the most popular vegetarian options are the shahi paneer and the sag paneer.
Baldev and Kamaldeep expand the restaurant’s menu every few years but has never removed an item from the menu. Some of the most recent additions have included more lamb, seafood, vegetarian and vegan options. Baldev said that vegan options have been in high demand within the last few years. The buffet also used to be much smaller and located in a different part of the restaurant, but it was moved in 2010 to make it larger and add more options.
The menu is also completely gluten free.
”There is no gluten because people have problems from gluten, we just use onions [and] tomatoes to make our curry,” Kamaldeep said.
In 1991, two years prior to opening New Delhi Diamond’s, Baldev opened Universal Deli-Grocery in Collegetown. The convenience store and deli that sells beer, snacks, spices and some frozen Indian dishes. Baldev sold the business in 1996 because they didn’t have enough help to run both businesses and wanted to focus on the restaurant.
Baldev said he is proud to have been in the community for so long and has no plans to leave soon.
“We are really proud of being part of ithaca community,” Baldev said. “Ithaca is down to earth people and beautiful. God willing we would love to keep it going for as long [as] me and my wife and (the) whole team have strength to work.”
New Delhi Diamond’s is located at 106 W. Green St. in Ithaca. The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. On the weekends, it is open from noon to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m. For more information, visit www.newdelhidiamonds.com.
Featured image by Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice