Exploring new restaurants is one of the best ways to really get to know a city’s character. Topeka, Kansas has always had fantastic dining experiences, but recent years have brought a huge number of new eateries to the city, including plenty of Indian and Mediterranean restaurants that have been delighting visitors. We spoke with Visit Topeka’s Communications Manager, India Yarbourough, to give us the scoop on why this Midwest city has such a thriving dining scene with unexpected flavors.

Q: We know that Topeka’s great dining scene has some unexpected Indian and Mediterranean flavors to surprise visitors. How do these flavors shape the character of Topeka, or define it as a destination?

A: Topeka is full of surprises when it comes to the food and flavors offered here! Much like bigger cities with diverse populations, Topeka’s food scene is shaped by the passionate people who live in the area and want to share their cultural creations with the community. The character of Topeka is reflected in the fact that multiple restaurants featuring Indian and Mediterranean flavors are not only able to survive but can truly thrive here. Kansas’ capital city welcomes anyone with a hunger to bring their dreams to life.

Q: I love how you phrased this idea, that Indian and Mediterranean flavors not only survive, but thrive in Topeka. Has Topeka’s food scene always included a number of Indian and Mediterranean options, or are those more recent additions? 

A: For years, Topeka has boasted a couple of great Indian eateries — like Globe Indian Cuisine downtown and Monsoon Indian Grill on the southwest side — but we’ve expanded those options just within the past few years! Pal Indian Cuisine, for example, has become a favorite among locals, along with Indian Bistro in southwest Topeka. Over the summer, we also saw Olive Café open its doors downtown, serving up delightful Mediterranean dishes prepared by chef Tony Mashaal, who learned what he knows from a mentor in Egypt. And he’s not the only local restaurant owner with a great story to tell! The owner of Globe, for instance, grew up in India. He works as a physician for a local hospital and bought Globe so he could share his South Indian culinary heritage with the community. That’s just a glimpse of the people behind the food!

Q: How exciting that Topeka has added so many great eateries in recent years. What has driven that trend, and how have visitors responded?

A: As more and more restaurants, breweries, cafes and the like have popped up in the Topeka area — seriously, you can find everything from authentic international cuisine to new cocktail lounges to hole-in-the-wall burger joints, gourmet grilled cheese and more — people are seeing the excitement for our community’s food-and-drink scene rise, with new small-business owners coming to the forefront! One of the things that make these new businesses possible are our community’s unique and aggressive economic incentives. They set us apart by lowering hurdles to business ownership, and both locals and visitors are feeling the impact.

Q: What a fantastic environment for new flavors to thrive! How have all these new eateries impacted the visitor experience in Topeka? Besides adding more  great dining options, has the atmosphere contributed in other ways to the Topeka experience?

A: Absolutely! When it comes to the Topeka experience, locals will tell you they love seeing new options pop up in their own backyard. Those new businesses tend to generate a real buzz, or air of excitement, city-wide. A big reason for that is these new shops and eateries, in many ways, reflect the growth and progress our area has seen in recent years. We’re thrilled to see many of our economic-prosperity and quality-of-life metrics continue to move in the right direction. There’s a real sense of pride around that, and we hope visitors to the area feel the shift in momentum! We know people travel for all kinds of reasons — and food is a big one. As with area residents, new diverse, fun dining options give travelers something else to look forward to when they visit Topeka. But these restaurants also give visitors more reasons to travel here in the first place! Take Olive Café, for example! The downtown Mediterranean hotspot consistently draws visitors from Kansas City, teaching them more about what’s available less than an hour’s drive away. Obviously, we hope they stay awhile and explore, no matter what brings them to town.

Q: It sounds like the energy behind Topeka’s thriving dining scene is exciting for locals and visitors alike. Have Topeka’s culinary choices, especially in the Indian and Mediterranean flavors, helped put it on the map and made it a destination for foodies?

A: Yes, they have! As people look for diverse dining options that offer unique experiences, the Topeka area really has grown as a hub for foodie-related fun. We love to see people snap photos downtown during their visits to places like Olive Café or Globe Indian Cuisine, or while they’re enjoying a variety of other flavors! It’s also cool to see that buzz inspire more people in the community to take risks. Circle Coffee Co. near Topeka’s Washburn University and Soliloquy, a hip new pop-up bar that operates out of Circle Coffee on the weekends, are great examples of that — along with 785 Beer Company, a soon-to-open brewery that will feature pickleball courts and other great entertainment options on site! All three tout young ownership groups that place a real emphasis on quality and community, and it’s cool to see a new generation of business owners making their mark on the local food scene, contributing to this budding culture of culinary entrepreneurship that’s attracting people from around the region.

Q: You’re describing such an energetic push in Topeka, with excitement building for new eateries that drive buzz, get locals and visitors excited, and the momentum just keeps building. With such an exciting trajectory of new flavors being introduced to the community, do you anticipate this trend continuing?

A: We do expect the trend to continue! As you can probably tell, Topeka has experienced a renaissance of sorts in recent years, and many of the new businesses opening here are a testament to that. Our community is doubling down over the next five years to make Topeka an even more exciting place for people to eat, drink and play. We have no doubt those coordinated efforts will lead to the openings of even more fun, flavorful businesses and entertainment districts that will continue to put our capital city on the map.

Q: What else should readers know about Indian and Mediterranean dining in Topeka?

A: The great thing about having so many of these types of restaurants is that you can experience different interpretations of the food based on regional culinary differences you’d find in India! Globe Indian Cuisine, for instance, has some unique South Indian dishes, while Indian Bistro and Monsoon Indian Grill feature more of the traditional North Indian offerings — so there really is something for everyone! Not convinced? Come explore and taste Topeka for yourself!

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