‘It’s all about the spices’

Rakesh Chand, owner of Gilroy's only Indian restaurant, delivers plates of hot food to customers at Spice 'N Ice in the heart of the city.

GILROY—Rakesh Chand and his family lamented many times about the lack of an Indian food restaurant in Gilroy. Tired of making the trek to San Jose or Fremont to enjoy a plate of authentic Indian fare, the Chands made history and opened the Garlic City’s first and only Indian restaurant, Spice ‘N Ice Bar and Grill on Fifth Street.
“We thought, if we have the time and we have the resources, why not open one ourselves?” said Chand, owner of the Indian fusion restaurant.
Chand, who has lived in Gilroy for nearly two decades, strives to reflect the diversity found in South County in the dishes featured on the menu. He takes spices typically found in kitchens in the Fiji Islands, where Chand hails from, and melds them with spices that flavor traditional Indian cuisine.
Of course, the dishes often include plenty of the city’s prized garlic.
“We try to have something different, something unique, when it comes to flavor,” Chand said. “That’s why we blend our own spices—all kinds of spices from all over the world. We’re always trying different flavors to come up with a unique dish, rather than having the same menu people grow tired of.”
To reflect the city’s own cultural makeup, Chand will soon add the zing of spices in Hispanic cuisine to his signature blend of flavors from Fiji and India.
“Gilroy is a growing city with a lot of different ethnicities and cultures and we need to provide food and services for every culture,” the restaurateur said. “We have to consider the demographics of Gilroy and cater to the Hispanics and Latinos. Just being a traditional Indian restaurant that offers traditional Indian food is good and all, but we have to accommodate the others.”
But Spice ‘N Ice won’t be Gilroy’s only Indian restaurant for long.
A second Indian restaurant is expected to open on the 1300 block of First Street in the coming months, according to the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. That points to a growing market for South Asian-inspired cuisine in Gilroy.
“More restaurants with greater diversity adds a greater draw to our community. It’s nothing but a good thing,” said Gilroy Chamber CEO Mark Turner.
“It’s good when someone else comes in,” Chand added.
For Chand, interacting with the restaurant’s clientele “is a lot like building a family.”
When first-time customers sit down and say they’ve never tried Indian food before, Chand talks with them to find out what flavors and meat they prefer.
“I help make the customer’s opinion. I want feedback from the customers—to see if they’re loving the spices or not, if it’s too spicy or if there are any changes we can make. I’m open to that,” Chand said. “We’re here for the customers, not for ourselves. That’s how we view our business.
“I enjoy seeing my customers happy and seeing them come back,” he added with a smile. “Food is something everyone loves.”
Spice ‘N Ice is located at 55 Fifth Street in downtown Gilroy.
Chicken tikka masala $11.95
Mixed grill $16.95
Lamb vindaloo $14.95
Chili fish in hot garlic sauce $13.95
Garlic naan (a must-try) $3.50