By Joon-Li Kim
When Nar Pradhan settled in Ohio in 2008, he acquired a new vision for his life: to become a bridge between Clevelanders and the Nepalese community. He was anxious and overwhelmed when he first arrived in Cleveland as a refugee, but he received so much kindness and mentorship from so many different people here that he can’t imagine living anywhere else – even though the snow took a little getting used to. Nar wanted to show his new home the best his community has to offer, so he decided to draw on his expertise and showcase Nepali food.
At Himalayan Restaurant, you can try not only much-loved Indian dishes, but also one of Nepal’s most famous dishes: momos. Delicious, bite-sized dumplings, momos fill your mouth with a steady parade of delightful flavors. But the menu includes so much more. If you’re interested in treating your tastebuds, order some of Nar’s favorites—chicken sekuwa; Himalayan lamb curry; or choila. His impulse to welcome and to connect comes through with every bite you take.
Running a Nepali restaurant is in Nar’s DNA. When he was a child living in Bhutan, his parents opened a grocery store and restaurant so that the villagers had somewhere local to shop, instead of having to walk 15 kilometers to a large city for their groceries. Travelers from other places also came to his parents’ store for necessities or for assistance in times of need. His memories of his family and friends from that time are full of love and fun, even though everyone was poor.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all picture-perfect happiness. His parents’ grocery store and restaurant were burned down three times, and the family barely escaped the third time. When Nar was around eight years old, his father died. His mother had to work constantly to keep the business alive in order to support Nar and his siblings. And then, in 1992, the government of Bhutan forced his family to give up their home, their possessions, and their land for a token payment and leave the country. Nar, his relatives, and several other villagers found themselves in a refugee camp in Nepal.
Nar spent sixteen years in various refugee camps in Nepal, living in harsh circumstances while trying to focus on his education. Undaunted, he and his siblings also found a way to run another grocery store in the camps. If you ask him what it was like to spend his childhood and part of his young adulthood in a refugee camp, his unfailing optimism shines through. The most important lesson he learned from that time, he says, is that “Humanity matters the most…respecting each other is the utmost one human being can do for another.”
In 2008, Nar had the opportunity to immigrate to Northeast Ohio, which now boasts one of the largest concentrations of Bhutanese and Nepali refugees in the country. When Nar talks about his dreams for the future, he sounds like a typical American. “This is a land of opportunity,” he says, “and if you work hard, that makes all the difference. If something needs to be done, then don’t hesitate to do it.”
Nar is proud of his new home and loves many of the great attractions we have in the city, like the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and our beloved Lake Erie. He loves that there’s so much variety in a city our size. He’s also very active in the fabric of the community, whether it’s his involvement in his own local refugee community, the larger Cleveland AAPI community, or as a business leader and entrepreneur always willing to coach and educate others looking for a way forward.
He’s an active member of Asian Services in Action and a fixture at the annual Cleveland Asian Festival, where Himalayan Restaurant takes its most popular dishes on the road every May, giving more people a chance to sample its food. For anyone looking to experience more AAPI culture in The Land, Nar’s suggestion is simple: go patron the many businesses that reflect the hard work and determination of the local Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
So, when you’re driving along and you suddenly have an overwhelming craving for curry, you know exactly where to go: the Himalayan Restaurant. And if it’s too hard to choose just one dish, Nar gets you. That’s why he offers a lunch buffet. If food is your love language, Nar speaks your language.