Can’t decide between shepherd’s pie or a lamb karahi curry? Why not both? Welcome to Bluestone Tavern and Tandoori Grill, 405 Old Route 32, offering a modern combination of traditional American comfort foods and south Asian cuisine.
Bluestone is owned by Saugerties residents and husband and wife Moviz Ashraf and Suchona Jahanur.
Ashraf came with his family to the U.S. from Pakistan 20 years ago. In 1999, after living in New York City with his family as a limousine driver, Ashraf was ready for a change. He said his sister spotted an ad in The New York Times for a gas station for sale in Saugerties. After she bought it, Ashraf moved to Saugerties and worked at the Citgo on Route 32 for his sister. “The best move I ever did in my life,” he said. In 2008, it was time for more change, and Ashraf bought the deli and market on Blue Mountain Road from longtime owner Tammy Warr.
Jahanur lived in Bangladesh until she earned her business degree, and left 18 years ago to work as a flight attendant in Bahrain and travel the world. She moved to Saugerties only a month ago from her most recent life in Pittsburgh, after meeting Ashraf on singlemuslims.com. “I flirted with him,” she giggled. “I knew right away,” she said. “From the first way he made me feel, I felt like he was the right man.” The couple smiles warmly at each other when they talk.
While working at the deli, his regulars were curious about Ashraf’s culture and regularly asked about Pakistani food. Jahanur and Ashraf said that they are each from regions known for showing hospitality with food, so Ashraf was more than happy to cook. This quickly evolved into weekly Tuesday Curry Nights, with Ashraf offering a meat and vegetarian take-out curry dish. “Every day we hear from our customers to have something different here in Saugerties,” said Ashraf.
Customers have the choice between a vegetarian curry or a chicken curry. (“Curry” is not a specific flavor, said Ashraf, but rather different powder and grounded spice blends which vary widely from region to region in Pakistan and India. Turmeric, cumin and coriander are the main, but certainly not the only, spices involved. Curry dishes are either “wet,” or “dry.” Dry curries are cooked with just a bit of liquid which is allowed to evaporate, leaving the other ingredients to coat the spice mixture; “wet” curries have the ingredients in a sauce. Pakistani food is “meat heavy,” explained Ashraf, but as Pakistan is a majority Muslim country, no pork.)
Ashraf decided to take his curry game up a few steps and opened a restaurant where he could expand his menu offerings. Bluestone Deli Tuesday Curry Night is not to be confused with the Bluestone Tavern restaurant, where customers now have a choice of over 20 curries on a full menu. Ashraf said he is enjoying an abundance of positive feedback from diners, and the restaurant is reliably filled on Friday and Saturday nights.
Ashraf said 80 percent of his diners are ordering curry, and 20 percent are opting for the American menu. “Most of my customers have known me for 20 years,” said Ashraf. “They say there is something for everyone.”
One of Bluestone Tavern’s most loyal customers guardedly started out with a simple chicken dish, said Ashraf. Spicy food was not the man’s thing, and one bite ran for the door in a sweat. He returned despite his reaction, and over the many months of him dining at the restaurant, he has slowly “graduated” his tolerance, no longer needing to run outside to gulp water.
Tom Hinchey of Saugerties said he was initially hesitant to try anything. “Every time [Ashraf] says to try something, it always becomes my new favorite.” Hinchey, an admitted regular, professed his love for the shrimp curry, chicken tikka botti (marinated barbecue chicken roasted in a Tandoori oven). “Each has a different taste,” said Hinchey. “The chicken is tender, the taste and flavor each do a different thing. People think Indian food has to be hot and spicy.”
Bluestone Tavern has a Monday through Friday Happy Hour from 4 p.m.-6 p.m., with half-priced appetizers, $2.99 Coors and half-priced well drinks. Check ’em out at bluestonetavernandtandoorigrill.com.