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Jalsa: Traditional Indian in Old City

An entrepreneur gets in touch with his roots.

Kayur Popat did not set out to get into the Indian restaurant business.

Popat, 39, born in Uganda to Indian parents, bought into a fast-food franchise that went cold. Then he hit it big with two Saxby's coffee shops. He also bought Bonte, the waffle shops.

Back home in Mechanicsburg, Pa., he was offered a stake in a pizzeria in 2009. His family suggested that he add Indian cooking. So Friends & Family Pizza Buffet became Bombay Junction & Pizza Buffet - a fitting meld of this fun-loving, easygoing American guy interested in maintaining his cultural heritage. (And talk about heritage: He traveled to India to find a bride. After a year of diplomatic red tape, his wife, Mona, joined him in Philly recently.)

While Bombay Junction is a humble spot in a suburban strip mall, he is ready to go downtown.

Friday, April 20, he opens Jalsa ("fun") at 246 Market St. (267-273-1648), the steel-girdled storefront previously home to Lena, Bluezette, and Prive. This is not an easy setup for a restaurateur. As it has under previous occupants, a space-sucking staircase divides the two floors of dining rooms. Popat has maintained much of the mod looks and white banquettes of Prive. Upstairs will be dining and late-night DJ action.

It's open for lunch and dinner daily; in these first days, it would be best to call first.

Menu is here.