February 23, 2012

dusmesh india restaurant, feb 23

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                                       Dee
     One of the things I love most about doing this blog is that the path for each story is totally unknown to me, until it unfurls itself like a vibrant cloth, in front of my eyes.  Today, I thought that I would be telling you about a restaurant, which has the most wonderful food I've ever tasted, but instead, I will be recounting a true story of love, sacrifice, and selflessness, and, of a union, the strength of which, can not be measured.
     The beautiful, beaming face you see above, belongs to Dee.  If you have eaten at Dusmesh India Restaurant, on Ludlow Ave., you may have met, or at least seen Dee, or, one of her two children, Maya and A.J.  If you've eaten there more than a few times, chances are that all three of them have memorized your name, as well as your favorite order.  The mindbogglingly delicious food, which I've already mentioned, is the inspired work of their father, Mahabir, the head chef, and his smiling kitchen staff.  

photo by steve metz                                                                                                          A.J.
     The story of their journey to Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A., begins more than twenty years ago in northern India, where Dee, the woman who always has a smile for everyone she sees, the woman who walks you to your table and who brings  you water, was a practicing physician.  Dr. Dee.  Mahabir, her husband, was a farmer.  The children were new to this world.  The family form had taken shape, but the future was uncertain.

     Dee and Mahabir were typical of any good parents in that they wanted greater opportunities for their children.  Their willingness to radically change their own lives in order to make this hope a reality, is where they truly set themselves apart.

     In 1985, Dee would board a plane, by herself.  She would leave behind her career, culture and language.  She would leave behind her husband, son, and daughter.  She would leave behind her parents, her extended family, and most of her worldly possessions.   It would be fourteen years before she would have a life which would include daily contact with her nuclear family.  Dee got on a plane one day, bound to parts unknown, to a place named San Francisco.  

     The plan was for Dee to travel to America to lay the foundation for a new life for her family.  Her career as a physician would pave the way.  At least that was the idea.  But, as so often happens, a smooth and simple plan was introduced to a harsh, complex reality.  It became much more difficult than anticipated for Dee to transfer her Indian medical credentials, to become a practicing physician here in the United States.  

     Imagine for a moment, that it's you.  You have arrived at a place in  which everything is utterly foreign.  You are alone.  You are tasked with finding a permanent place to live, a temporary job to sustain yourself while you trustingly reach for a way to transfer your career to this foreign culture with its foreign methods.  You are tasked with learning a new language, a new city, a new form of government, a new way of interacting with people, new roads, new light sockets, new fruits, new vegetables, new household supplies, new ways of dressing, new idioms, new public transit, new banks, new beds...absolutely everything you knew is gone.  Now, imagine, also, that the backbone of your plan has fractured.  What would you do?

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                                      Maya
     Meanwhile, your husband is thousands of miles away.  He is toiling in the fields to provide food and shelter for your two small children.  They are so small that, at some point, they might even become confused as to whether the woman who is helping to take care of them while you are away is their mother or their grandmother.  Soon, they will begin school.  They will develop personalities, idiosyncrasies, and manners of speech.  Their faces will change.  Their feet and hands will grow.  Will they recognize you when you are able to visit?  Will you recognize them?  Will they like you?  What would you do with these thoughts, with these obstacles, these fears?  What would Dee do?  Would she acquiesce and return home to India, fating her family to less than she and Mahabir wanted for them?

photo by steve metz                                          saag mushroom
buffet tag

     No, she would not.  Instead, she would do what all those who achieve greatness do.  She would fight.  She would find an alternative.  She would find a way.  Dee decided that the next best thing to being able to resume her medical practice in the United States, was to become a nurse.  For a person who is a true mother, this is not shocking, or even questionable.  After all, nurturing is nurturing.  The vessel by which care is delivered, is irrelevant.  Until 1999, Dee would provide care to others by nursing them through illness, stashing away as much money as she could, a bit at a time, until, finally, at long last, her family was able to join her.  The children, so small when she had left, were now teenagers.

photo by steve metz                                                                                              Mahabir, in blue stripes, and the kitchen staff

      I have tried to imagine their first night together, in San Francisco: the first night living together as a family, under one roof, after what must have seemed a countless number of years.  I imagine tears of happiness and laughter.  I imagine some fear and uncertainty, too.   They could not have known what the future held at the time, any more than Dee could have known it when she stepped onto that airplane so many years ago.  They could not have known how difficult the first day of school would be for Maya and A.J., who didn't understand a word of English.  They could not have known that it would become difficult for Mahabir to find work in America and that he, too, would eventually embark upon a solitary journey of his own, to a place called Ohio, where he would work as a dishwasher while his family remained in California.  They could not have known that, by way of this experience, Mahabir would discover in himself, a great gift for cooking and that this gift, along with the hard work and dedication of his wife and children, would allow them to, at long last, realize their family dream, some twenty years in the making.    

     It would be in the form of their own restaurant, a business they would build from the ground up, using the same tenacity and sense of purpose, which had served them so well for so long.  It would grow from being a well kept secret, frequented by a handful of lucky customers, into a bustling, community hub, which would be packed with happy customers seven days a week.  This success would come from the high quality of the product served, but even more so from the high quality of the people who provide it.  They would name it Dusmesh, which, loosely, means "Ten God," in their Sikh faith, in honor of their family heritage.   It would be on a road named Ludlow, in a place called Cincinnati.  

You can visit Dusmesh India restaurant seven days per week.  They are open for lunch and dinner.   Lunch features the greatest buffet in the world, which includes many vegetarian options.  :)

Dusmesh Indian Restaurant
944 Ludlow Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45220
(513) 221-8900 
Hours: Lunch Buffet - Monday - Friday 11:00 - 2:30; Saturday & Sunday11:00 - 3:00; Daily Dinner Hours 3:00 - 10:00


  1. This is a great post, Steve. It gives me a whole new respect for the restaurant. Which does indeed have some DELICIOUS food and great vegetarian options.

  2. Love everything about this!
    As many know, those who live in and around Clifton are blessed with a dearth of Indian eateries. Dusmesh is by far the best and friendliest and I'll fight anyone who says I'm wrong.

  3. What an amazing journey.
    A 6.5 hour round trip for a meal...hmmm...possible.

  4. Paul, Tadka also has a story and high quality Indian food. The chef who used to work the shop called 'Apna' was offered the store once the owner couldn't keep it up. That chef is a kind soul and has a great personality to boot. He actually made a curried cabbage dish for me when they didn't have it on the buffet. It took him ten minutes to do so.

    I'm not going to fight you because i'd probably win, but i digress. I've eaten at Dusmesh & have steered many people there who always have the same experience. It's great! They, by far, are some proprietors who truly care about their guests. Thanks to Steve for another winner of a blog, i'll be going to Dusmesh a lot more to support their dream.

  5. Love this post and this place. They are the sweetest and the food is delicious.

  6. I love this place! So glad you wrote about it and it's wonderful to learn about the people who own it.

  7. Thank you for telling this magnificent story of perseverance. I love Dusmesh and will appreciate it more so now!

  8. Paul, the place seems to have new owners. Any insight?