An interview with the merchant behind Lime and Lemon Indian Grill is more of a party than a meeting. There are actually three owners — Ravi, Raj, and Mayil — and they are all equally invested in the restaurant, which Mayil refers to as their “baby.” But this lively party of owners is the least surprising thing about the new Indian grill on the north end of Ninth Street’s business district.
Lime and Lemon isn’t your typical Indian restaurant. For starters, the owners hail from South India and wanted to share the cuisine of their childhoods through their new restaurant. Most local Indian restaurants focus on a style of cooking from North Indian that includes naan, tandoor, samosas, and other wheat-based options. Southern Indian cuisine is rice–or-lentil– based (which means lots of gluten free options!) and features dosas, idlis and sambar. The restaurant’s name reflects the diversity of flavors on their menu. Limes and lemons come from the same citrus fruit family but have distinct flavors. Similarly, while Indian food comes from the same country, the spices, flavors, and textures of the foods native to North and South India are quite distinct.
Another unexpected pleasure to be discovered at Lime and Lemon is the cocktail menu, which may be one of the best in Durham. Bar manager Anthony Jones makes every juice on the menu from fresh fruit, (with the exception of cranberry, which is very difficult to juice!). Even the kiwi and watermelon juices are fresh-squeezed (you’ll be very happy about this fact when you try their Elderflower and vodka-infused Watermelon Cooler on a hot day!). Jones also enjoys making specialty mocktails for teetotalers and children. Lime and Lemon is, in fact, exceptionally family friendly. Though the vibrant, modern decor and attentive service create a fine dining experience, the prices, friendly vibe, and awareness of food allergies make this a perfect spot for families. Two of the owners have children who are allergic to tree nuts, so are careful to offer nut-free options. The menu is also generous with gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan dishes.
Like the owners, Chef Sengu Arumugam has lived in the Triangle area for more than fifteen years. Though Ravi, Raj, and Mayil all work in IT, Arumugam has been working as a chef for more than two decades. He believes in creating authentic flavor by sourcing ingredients that are as fresh as possible. Nothing is pre-made, and he avoids mellowing out the flavor of the dishes with too much cream or minimal spice — it’s important that the flavor be as authentic as possible. Also, Arumugam never uses a ready-made spice blend because the taste just doesn’t compare to the blends he creates himself.
From the owners (and their wives and children) to the chef, bar manager, and wait staff, the crew at Lemon and Lime Indian Grill are their own family. It doesn’t hurt that the owners have been friends for more than fifteen years and truly realized a dream with the opening of Lime and Lemon in April of 2019. Raj says he used to travel a lot for work. Now, he just wants to be at the restaurant. They all do. “We don’t all have to be here at the same time, but we like to be,” he says.
As you’ll discover if you visit Lime and Lemon, the three owners love engaging with their customers. They also love food. With their focus on the quality of the food and the customer experience, they haven’t had a whole lot of time for marketing. But Ravi says that customers seem thrilled with the food, and that couldn’t make them happier. In fact, Ravi says, “We’re finding that people are spreading the word about the restaurant for us.” So, head on over to Lime & Lemon Indian Grill for a happy hour Punjabi Margarita and an appetizer of Chili Paneer. If you love it, tell a friend.
What is this lively bunch of owners doing when they’re not running a restaurant?
Ravi Jeyaraman plays volleyball, ping pong, and cricket, and loves spending time with family and taking his three daughters (ages eight, six and three) to the mall.
Mayil Rajendran might be cooking, dreaming up a new recipe (he’s passionate about food!), or spending quality time with his wife, son, and daughter.
Raj Manikkam is likely spending time with his family, playing cricket, driving his kids (thirteen-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son) to classes, watching football or basketball with his son (Patriots and Golden State are their favorite teams) or catching a good action flick (the Bourne movies are his favorite).