HIDDEN GEMS, WYOMING’S BEST EATS: This Indian Bistro in Cheyenne May Be Addictive
- Published In: Hidden Gems: Wyoming's Best Eats
- Last Updated: Jun 29, 2023
Durbar owner Bir Raut is seen through a lattice panel as he busses a table in the Cheyenne restaurant he opened in July 2020. (Wyoming Truth photo by David Dudley)
By David Dudley
Special to the Wyoming Truth
You could be forgiven for not knowing that Durbar Nepalese and Indian Bistro exists. Situated in a strip mall off East Lincolnway in Cheyenne, the bland storefront doesn’t do its fair share to alert diners to the delicious dishes that await on the other side of its large glass windows.
But when you do take the leap and walk into the foyer, you’ll be greeted by the aroma of toasted coriander, cardamom, cumin, curry, ginger and garlic, plus the flavorful meats roasting in a tandoori (clay) oven.
The first time I visited Durbar, three diners walked past me on their way out, clutching styrofoam leftover boxes to their chests. A fourth stopped just short of the exit, mumbling to herself: “Oh, I forgot my leftovers.” She turned and went back to the booth where she’d sat beneath a portrait of the Hindu god Ganesh hanging on the wall.
Durbar’s owner, Bir Raut, stood behind the counter, where he often stands when he’s not floating from table to table, making sure customers are enjoying their meals. After greeting me, he asked if it was my first visit. I told him it was.
“I want everybody to try my food,” he said. “People think Indian and Nepalese food is spicy, but it’s not. We use a lot of spices, which make the food flavorful. Many of them have anti-inflammatory qualities. But we make it fresh. You can have it as mild, or as spicy, as you want.”
He paused there, surveying 15 diners huddled over their favorite dishes.
“I make the same promise to everyone,” he continued. “If you eat here, and you don’t like it, it’s on the house.”
It may sound like a bold gamble, but Raut is confident in his cuisine—and deservedly so. I tried several dishes during two visits in the same week.
The mint shrimp ($12) consists of six plump shrimp covered in flakes of mint and roasted in the tandoori oven. They come with a small serving of chopped cabbage and carrots, adding a satisfying crunch.
The Himalayan noodle soup ($10) is a traditional Nepalese soup that’s reminiscent of Top Ramen. But these noodles are higher quality. The real difference lies in the broth, which is a subtle, creamy tomato base, with onion added for flavor and a cilantro zing. This soup sticks to the ribs. It’ll keep you warm in the brutal Himalayan winters—or Cheyenne’s.
The chicken chili ($12) is my favorite. Tender chunks of boneless chicken are sautéed with a touch of chili, red onions and green bell peppers. Those flavorful chunks of chicken practically melt in your mouth, but not before the complimentary flavors come together.
Though these dishes are made with fresh ingredients, and cooked to perfection in a single pan, they aren’t what many would call “traditional.” Durbar’s menu is more elaborate than the food Raut ate back home in Nepal, where meals are improvised using whatever’s at hand.
They wouldn’t let us fail
During my second visit, I noticed two framed letters displayed on the wall behind the counter.
The one on the top, dated March 26, 2021, is from Gov. Mark Gordon. Before complementing Raut and his staff — many of whom are family — for the bravery they displayed by opening their restaurant during the darkest days of the pandemic, Gordon wrote that Durbar was among his family’s favorite restaurants.
The other was written U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R.-Wyo.), when Raut was named one of the Wyoming Business Report’s “30 Under 40” in January 2023.
Raut, 30, treasures those letters. Born and raised in the plains region of Jhapa, Nepal, he taught middle school before making the long journey to San Francisco in 2013. After working at various restaurants, and keenly observing the chefs presiding over their kitchens, he found his way to Cheyenne. Raut, his wife, Dibya, her brother, and a partner devoted three months to remodeling the restaurant, which was once home to the Pie Lady. Raut opened Durbar in July 2020—just as pandemic restrictions were hitting the restaurant industry.
“That was hard,” he said. “But I believed in myself, my staff and our food.”
Diners in Cheyenne responded by becoming loyal customers.
“They’re the key to our success,” Raut added. “They wanted our food. They wouldn’t let us fail during the pandemic. That made me proud, yeah.”
Raut’s promise still stands: Come, try the food. If you don’t like it, you don’t pay.
Durbar Nepalese and Indian Bistro, 3515 E Lincolnway, Cheyenne, Wyoming; (307) 369-2354. Open 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Monday.