Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect new information that was only made available after the time of press.
Tamber's Restaurant recently announced its decision to remain open and serve both Indian and American cuisines, contrary to its previous notice to staff and patrons that it would be closing this Saturday for renovations and serve only Indian food. Known for its Indian and Western cuisine, Tamber’s has been a staple of Charles Village dining since it opened in 1991.
Petro Kuman, who has owned and managed Tamber’s alongside his brother, decided against closing Tamber’s once his brother’s brother-in-law agreed to join their team. He has recently faced some health issues and thought that renovations and a smaller scale menu of only Indian food would allow him to lessen his workload.
“He doesn’t have my age and health issues,” Kuman said about his brother’s brother-in-law. “He says this is an opportunity for him to keep the restaurant as it is.”
Kuman’s relative worked at Tamber’s Restaurant for a time about eight years ago.
By expanding the management from two people to three, Kuman will be able to work fewer hours and at the same time allow Tamber’s to remain in its current form.
“People have been calling the restaurant, saying, ‘Look, I eat at your place six days a week; I eat both the American food and the Indian,’” Kuman said.
Kuman and his brother took the comments of their longtime devoted customers into consideration. He said that they will be all right now that they have a third person’s help in managing the restaurant.
They may still do renovations this summer, Kuman stated, but for now Tamber’s remains unchanged and without any plans to close.
Kuman described the complications behind having such an extensive menu.
“I work six days a week and twelve hours a day, sometimes more. It is two restaurants in one. And I’m responsible for everything running smoothly,” Kuman said. “We took on too much. I’m not complaining; I was willing to do that on my own. But now we want less headache, less work.”
Because of the diversity in cuisine featured on the menu, there are many requests which create additional work for the restaurant.
“People come in and ask for what they’re craving even though it isn’t on the menu,” Kuman said. “They want egg white omelets or broccoli instead of rice, and we serve it.”
Petro also explained that he cannot compete with the franchises, like Subway and Chipotle, which are located just a few blocks away. Unlike these places, Tamber’s cannot advertise and it cannot negotiate higher salaries for its employees because it has no budget for these things.
“This is a mom and pop shop. It’s not like Subway and Chipotle,” Kuman said.
Kuman grew up in India and moved to the United States about thirty-two years ago. When he and his brother bought Tamber’s, it was a small American diner and half the size it is today.
The personal connection that one finds at a mom and pop place like Tamber’s is what sets it apart from the other dining options in the area, he noted. As a result, when customers began to ask for Indian food as a favor early on, Kuman obliged. Eventually it was clear that the demand for Indian cuisine existed, so Kuman seized the opportunity and added Indian food to the Tamber’s menu.
Kuman and his brother bought the building next door as their home about thirteen years ago. Seeing that business was continuing to grow, they began a yearlong renovation project, completed in 2005, in which they expanded the dining room and tripled the seating.
Tamber’s accommodates these order specifications because of the personal connections it has with so many of its customers. About 80 percent of the clientele is made up of students and hospital workers in the daytime, Kelly noted. At night it’s mostly students and Guilford area families.
Sophomore Harriet Green, a devoted Tamber’s client, was disappointed when she heard that the restaurant will be closing.
“It’s tragic," she said. "An utter tragedy. No other place will live up to Tamber’s for Sunday brunch.”
The decision to serve only Indian food was not popular with many Hopkins students, who represent a large portion of Tamber’s clientele.
“I like Tamber’s because you can go there for an omelet in the morning and then go back for Chicken Tikka Masala at night,” sophomore Ginny Rogers said.
Members of the staff agreed.
“It seems like a lot of people don’t want this at all,” Kelly, a waiter at Tamber’s for the past five years, said.
Kelly commented that, in his experience, roughly one-third of customers order Indian food at Tamber’s during the daytime and at night it is slightly more.
A certain amount of ambiguity surrounded the imminent closing of this neighborhood joint.
This past weekend, a waitress explained that the staff had been notified about the renovations very recently when a note was put up in the kitchen. The waitress referred to the closing as “shady.”
Members of the staff were not pleased with the decision to renovate.
“Everyone is just working until we are laid off. I’m sure we’ll have the opportunity to come back after the renovation,” Kelly said.
“Most of them are crying,” Kuman said.
Now, however, Tamber's will remain opened for the foreseeable future.