IndAroma Bakery and Cafe

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

If the name of this bright new spot in the Pinecrest Shopping Center conjures images of masala and fruit breads, French pastries and Indian-inspired panini, you're right on track.

The owners are family: Yogesh Handa has 30 years' experience in the food industry; son Abhishek Handa and son-in-law Rahul Marwaha handle the marketing and concept. They had just opened a franchise WOW Cafe and Wingery in Manassas in February when they found the space for this cafe plus an Indian grocery right next door.

"We were looking to create something unique, with a relaxed atmosphere for young people," Abhishek says. "And our customers say Ginger and Spice is the best-looking Indian 'Whole Foods' of Indian markets -- but without the high prices."

IndAroma makes some cakes without eggs or sugar. All the ones on display are quite colorful (mango, tiramisu and Black Forest among them) and are sold by the slice ($2.50 to $3.90; eight-inch-round cakes off the shelf start at $25). Chicken tikka puffs and a variety of croissants ($2 to $3) fill the cases, and shelves of those masala and fruit breads line the walls ($1.80 per loaf).

So far, an early favorite is the chicken tikka panino ($6.50, with chips). Abhishek says that might be because its bread is made in-house, a pullman-style loaf flecked with basil. The cheese in the paneer tikka panini is cooked in a creamy sauce, then topped with lettuce, onion and tomatoes (also $6.50, with chips). Freshly made samosas are the most popular finger food ($1).

And then there are the kati rolls, thin breads called rumali roti filled with deep-fried cauliflower, onions and tomatoes and served with yogurt sauce on the side ($4.90), and specials from the streets of Mumbai, such as the alu tikki burger (a vegetable cutlet) with mint sauce ($5.75), and the dabeli, a bun stuffed with spiced potatoes and peanuts and served with sweet and spicy sauces on the side ($4.50).

Quench your thirst with the quintessential mango lassi (16 ounces, $2.99) or masala (spiced) chai and Madras coffee (10 ounces, $1.50).

If you have time to stop in next door at Ginger and Spice, you'll find the usual ice creams, chips, milk, eggs and reasonably priced wines. Budweiser sits side by side with Taj and Kingfisher beers. There is also a large variety of Indian teas, ayurvedic products and beautiful, fresh produce: curry leaves, okra, ginger, eggplant and limes, plus tropical juices such as mango, guava, pomegranate and green mango. And it's all good to go, too.

-- Monica Bhide (Good to Go, July 22, 2009)