Punjabi Dhaba delight for Sikh truckers

The roadside diner, about 20 miles west of downtown Nashville, is one of several dotting highways across the U.S


It’s 9 a.m. on a Sunday, and Punjabi Dhaba in Kingston Springs has already been open for an hour. The restaurant is serving sleepy-eyed truck drivers who shuffle in from the truck stop across the street for breakfast parathas and a curry to go before another day on the road.

In India, roadside diners like these are known as dhabas, and while they’re dotted along the highway across the U.S., they’re especially common in the Punjab region of Northern India. In 2019, brothers Karan and James Singh opened Punjabi Dhaba about 20 miles west of downtown Nashville to serve the growing number of truck drivers in the U.S. from the Sikh community.

Here in the U.S., dhabas are popping up on popular trucking routes, especially along I-40. There’s Taste of India, located in the back of a convenience store at an old gas station in San Jon, N.M., and Spicy Bite in Milan, N.M. The latter features a massive lunch buffet with plenty of five-star reviews on Yelp from hungry travelers (semi and SUV drivers alike).

Continue east on I-40 beyond Amarillo and you’ll eventually hit an area where there’s not much on the horizon. That is, aside from a billboard for Truck Stop 40 Punjabi Restaurant towering over a stark stretch of highway between Texas and Oklahoma, advertising fresh food in the Hindi language.

Punjabi Dhaba’s first location was just off I-40 in the 101 Travel Plaza in Cedar Grove, Tenn. Word tends to travel fast within the Sikh trucking community, and business at the restaurant grew quickly and stayed steady. But the COVID-19 pandemic hit the trucking industry hard, and the Singh brothers decided to close the restaurant — although James Singh knew the closing wouldn’t be permanent.

“The pandemic just gave us a chance to shift our focus,” James says, pointing out that most dhabas are located inside a gas station or truck stop. “We wanted our restaurant to serve truck drivers, but also be something that people locally would want to visit.”

In March of this year, the Singhs opened Punjabi Dhaba at its current location in Kingston Springs. Now located off I-40’s Exit 188 on Petro Road, the restaurant sits directly across the street from a mammoth Petro truck stop. And while the old location was as no-frills as you’d expect a truck stop diner to be, the new space greets road-weary truckers and Kingston Springs locals with chandeliers and colorful Christmas lights. The manufactured log cabin gives strong Tennessee country vibes, while the movies played on the television above the door are strictly Bollywood.

Read the full story, ‘‘Punjabi Dhaba Offers a Taste of Home to Sikh Truck Drivers(Nashville Scene, 4 Nov 2021), here.


Sikhs, finding religious freedom on the road, take outsize role in American trucking (Asia Samachar, 22 July 2021)

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