A major driving force behind the emergence of Dhaka’s food scene has been the various food courts that have been established around the city throughout the last decade.
These food courts have given consumers the opportunity to diversify their pallets through the concept of having a plethora of cuisines under one roof. It has also allowed restaurateurs to connect to consumers in a more interactive way. Some of the most famous names in the food scene (for instance, Takeout) started their journey from one of these food courts. As amazing as these establishments have been for our taste buds and the overall growth of the industry, food courts in recent times have become very generic. Granted, they serve the purpose, but there’s not much to separate them. Or so we thought until we stumbled upon The Garage Food Court.
When you think of food hubs, Tejgaon is hardly the first name that comes to mind. However, in reality, it is one of the most buzzing places of Dhaka with so many banks and corporateoffices. The food market was wholly untapped, and this is where Navid Kamal stepped in with the idea. Speaking to the Executive Director of The Garage, we got to know a bit more about its intriguing origins. “I have worked in this area for about ten years, and there was always a distinct lack of food places. Sure, there are a few decent names in the area, but they weren’t suited to cater to the daily needs of the young executives who populate the area during office hours. I wanted to bridge this gap,” he explained. He initially began with his own restaurant Chaap Station, but after receiving an overwhelming response, he decided it was time to expand his vision.
Chaap Station was located right in front of a garage which Navid thought was just the ideal place to accommodate his imagination. So after acquiring the place and appropriately naming it The Garage Food Court, his vision was translated into reality. The Garage has a very artsy feel about it. Sure, it is located in a literal garage which instantly adds to the wow factor, but there’s more to it than that. The hanging lights, the wooden decor and the general openness of the place give you a feeling of excitement as opposed to the mundaneness of a closed space. With all its nuances, it comes as no surprise that The Garage was able to attract some of the best names in the sector including Takeout, Lucknow, Cheez, Hakka Dhaka, Chaap Station, Banglar Mishti and Butter. Not only that it has also given emerging brands such as Habiby’s, Sprinklez, Dosa Express, Marcas etc. a platform to make a name for themselves. Also, it is worth mentioning that their in-house beverage corner serves one of the best teas in town! “I wanted to provide customers with the highest palette of food at reasonable prices. If you look carefully, there’s no repetition in cuisine. I want people to have as many unique options as possible,” Navid elaborated.
A food court with a cause
The Garage can seat 300 people, and the open nature of the place makes it ideal for concerts and exhibitions, and the management makes full use of it. They hosted their most recent concert on December 27 and are expected to host renowned singers Arnob and Bappa Mazumder on January 10. But The Garage’s uniqueness stretches beyond its rustic aesthetics. 50% of the wood in their furniture have been either recycled or reclaimed. The hanging lights which were mentioned earlier have all been salvaged from abandoned ships. Besides, Naveed is working to reduce the overall plastic consumption of the place and hopes to introduce healthier alternatives in the coming months with the ultimate goal being shifting to zero plastic. He even aspires to give people with disabilities a chance to work in The Garage. “We want at least 20% of our workforce to be comprised of people who have been denied a normal life because of circumstances and are currently working with various organisations to make it happen,” Navid stated in his concluding notes. The Garage is indeed an artsy place where people can come and have a good time, but there’s way more to it than meets the eye.
Photographs by Din M Shibly