New Deli Shop Fashioned On '50s

The Scene County Currents And Undercurrent

February 20, 1991|By Michael James

Ellicott City is a long way from New Delhi, India, but for a restaurant entrepreneur, the dollar is worth the trip.

"When I came here,I saw right away that America likes its casual places where people can go for a sundae or a sandwich," said A. J. Datta, the owner of thenewly opened AJ's Deli-n-Ice Cream on St. John's Lane.

"And I saw that if you want to make money here, you can."

Datta, 23, grew up in Lucknow, India, just outside of New Delhi.

He moved to the United States -- specifically, Howard County -- with his family eight years ago.

His sandwich and ice cream shop is somewhat'50s-ish, with plain wood benches and a plain food counter.

But the Indian commitment to service is ever-present, as evidenced by signs on each table saying, "No tips, please."

"I want to give customers what they want for food, but I want to give it to them with a level of service that they will remember," said Datta, who runs the restaurant with his wife.

"People should expect good service. They shouldn't have to pay for it."

His prices are reasonable. A turkey "breadwich" (it's a sandwich, basically) goes for $3.60 and a cheese steak sub is listed at $2.99. A banana split costs $2.90.

Datta, who resides in Ellicott City, was a mathematician and an aspiring engineer in India.

But the high pressure of the Indian work ethic didn't suit his laid-back lifestyle, he says.

He has been in the food business since coming to America, where he began working in his uncle's pizza shop when he was 15.

Ellicott City, he said, seemed like it needed an ice cream shop.

"The people here are a sophisticated, nice crowd that seem as though they would like to try new things and have a treat after work," he said.

His menu has some Greek dishes, such as gyros and spinach pie.

It has some Italian dishes, such as spaghetti and meatballs.

But outside of a side-order of rice pudding, no Indian foods are sold at AJ's.

"I don't know how to cook them," Datta said.

"I guess I don't really have an interest in learning.

"Indian restaurants haven't really done that well in America.My opinion is that the food is too spicy for Americans."

The shop, bearing the slogan "Share life's delicious moments with us," is located at 3570 St. John's Lane.

SOURCE: Michael James

ANOTHER BREAKTHROUGH: COLUMBIA'S DOORMAN

In a city as youg as 23-year-old Columbia, firsts are fairly regular occurrences. In the three years that I've worked here, the firsts have included Columbia's first cemetery, first local bank and first orthodox synagogue.

The city reached anotheer first when the Watermark Place luxury condominium complex openedlast September, providing Columbia with its first doorman.

This first was not accompanied by the fanfare of the other firsts mentionedabove. In fact, I wasn't aware of it until I saw an advertisement announcing, "Watermark's doormen pamper your lifestyle Monday thru Sunday!"

The ad features a picture of "Bruce, the weekend doorman...available to greet your guests, carry your packages to your suite and park your car."

Karen Eudy, Watermark's sales director, says the presence of doormen is a big drawing card withe condo-shoppers. "It's one thing that nobody else has here," she said. "It's a new concept."

Seventeen of Watermark's 76 units are occupied and 44 have been sold, Eudy said. The privilege of having Columbia's first doorman at your service will set you back between $179,000 and $513,000.

SOURCE: Jackie Powder

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