I’ve covered an Indian food place out here in Rochester already, but a new place came to my attention recently, purely due to its novelty. The place is called Naantastic, and it’s this new fast-food Indian place that popped up right next to the SmashBurger in Henrietta.
My suitemates had gone to the restaurant a few weeks ago and told me that it sold Fat Tire beer on tap, which, when you consider that beer and fast food are two of my favorite vices in the world, had me interested. Also, the idea of both a potential heart attack and potential heartburn from spicy food sounded like a riveting Friday evening for me.
The place has its look and vibe nailed down, though I’m not exactly sure what it’s supposed to be. Their logo work is clean, and their store has nice seats, tables, and lighting. There’s a black motorcycle adorned with its logo attached to a passenger side cart…for some reason. The music playing in the background sounds Bollywood-esque (there’s definitely a better name for this genre of music, sorry I don’t know what it is).
The restaurant has a predominantly red-and-black color scheme going on. Naantastic’s branding and venue is sleek and neat, but I don’t really know how it all ties into Indian food.
I’m going to be honest here, if I didn’t know it was an Indian food place, I probably could tell people from the looks of it that it could be any type of restaurant: a milkshake joint, a barbeque shop, a beer house. This is a small detail, but it has nothing to do with the food, so I should probably shut my mouth and get on with it.
The food is served in an assembly-line ordering process, just like Chipotle, but Indian. The place has kind of a weird setup, where the entrance to the line comes from the right, and the ordering process flows toward the left until the customer hits the cashier.
The options are also pretty much a carbon copy of Chipotle’s options, but with Indian food staples as the content instead of Mexican ones. That means you’ve got an option of choosing between naan tacos, a food bowl, or a naan wrap, filled with a protein base of lamb, chicken, cheese, or beans.
For the naan, you can choose either garlic naan bread or regular naan bread. You then get to throw either a sweet or a spicy curry sauce on top of your protein. (Spice options consist of sweet mahkani, sweet masala, spicy vindaloo, or spicy karma.)
Moving down the line, you can throw in some veggies, like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, sweet corn, and red cabbage. Then, right before getting to the cashier, you can add a finishing sauce on top — you’ve got the choice of mango tango, chilli garlic, cilantro mint, cucumber raita, and sweet tamarind.
You’ve also got the option of getting one of Naantastic’s many varied sides, which include veggie samosa, Punjabi chips, Punjabi mac and cheese, and fish pakura.
The drink options are plentiful at Naantastic. It knows how to appease a sugar tooth, offering mango lassi, orange juice, and Mexican Coke. (Holy shit.) On top of that, the restaurant also offers wine and four different beers on tap.
The beer is filled up in a really unconventional way. Naantastic is partnering with this beer supply company (whose name I can’t remember) that provides a beer-filling system where, using cups with magnets on the bottom, you can fill a cup of beer from the bottom and then pass it off super fast to a customer. This was easily the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in the last few months and, thus, had me losing my shit. I ordered a Fat Tire from the cashier using this thing, and it blew my mind. The beer was good too, but c’mon, it’s Fat Tire, that’s to be expected.
So, here’s where I tell you what I thought of my meal. I’m sad to say, but it wasn’t that great. It was good, but it was lacking in a lot of the things that make Indian food for me. I got a bowl filled with chicken, rice, makhani sauce, onion, red cabbage, peppers, mint sauce, and some garlic naan on the side. It was alright, definitely for a fast food place, but Naantastic’s claim of being the “Best Indian Food Experience in Rochester” is a massive oversell.
The biggest thing that Naantastic lacks is a distinctive flavor. My bowl felt like a giant hodgepodge of things with no particular flavor beyond spices and meat. This is going to come with the nature of a fast food place, but it feels a little odd at the prices they’re charging and the claims they’re making. Honestly, the meats aren’t marinated in the sauce or anything, so it all just kind of feels very messy, which, like I said, matches the fast food goals, but feels wrong for the type of food. I might sound a bit picky here, but I can’t help but feel like the idea behind the shop is a quick cash grab at a style of food that is usually so full of flavor. The food doesn’t beat Tandoor of India, it doesn’t beat Havelli’s, and it definitely doesn’t beat Amaya Indian Cuisine. (Oh my god, that’s nearly impossible, what an unfair competition.) Mexican food can be sloppy, but Indian food doesn’t feel right this way.
Maybe if I had one of the sides, the food might’ve blown me away(this is a fusion place after all), but for the price, I’m still having a bit of a hard time recommending the food. I spent a total of thirty bucks on both bowls that I paid for, along with the beer I got, and a veggie samosa that I ordered on the side to take home to my suitemate. Even at that hefty sum, the food didn’t fill me up as much as Tandoor’s would’ve for an even lower price (especially on buffet day). It’s really funny too, since everyone else I’ve talked to about it seems to like the food. Unpopular opinions, I guess.
Saving graces though, and this is a big one, the mango lassi is absolutely delicious and creamy. Plus number two, their website is incredibly well done and makes me want to get better at web design.
With all that said, I still think people should try Naantastic, if at least for the experience. The idea is novel, but the food won’t kick any of Rochester’s big Indian food places out of business anytime soon.
You can walk to Naantastic in 10 minutes from the Green Line stop in front of Wegmans. Be prepared to bring at least anywhere between $15 and $20 if you’re planning on eating a meal, as you’re gonna want more than just a main dish. (I recommend at least a main dish, a side, and a drink.) And don’t forget to pile up on the contents of your main dish, because any extra travel that your money can make will be necessary here.