The Crunchy Samosa Burrito That Comes From a Surprise Pit Stop

The crunchy samosa burrito that comes from a surprise pit stop outside of D.C. (Via @Eater_DC)

10/18/2021 1:30:00 AM

The crunchy samosa burrito that comes from a surprise pit stop outside of D.C. (Via Eater_DC)

Chit Chaat cafe marries home-style Punjabi cooking with convenience in a Northern Virginia gas station

On a recent lunchtime visit to a nondescript ExxonMobil gas station in Vienna, Virginia, a handful of curious onlookers were drawn to a line attached to a little kiosk inside. Alongside soda and the usual lineup of packaged snacks, grab-and-go mango lassis were lined up in a refrigerated case. When people forked over their money, they left with boxes of chicken biryani, assemble-yourself pani puri, and burritos stuffed with fried vegetable samosas.

Raja and Bindu Puri openedChit Chaat cafeinside the gas station at 200 Maple Avenue E a few months ago. The husband and wife do all the prep and cooking. Their children Neil, Maggie, and Nikki take on respective roles in operations, finance, and social media. Although it’s not the family’s first restaurant, it’s their first one surrounded by fuel pumps.

The Puris moved to the U.S. from the Punjab region of India in the late 1990s. Bindu liked to cook for the Indian community, preparing elaborate meals for parties and serving as an unofficial caterer for friends and family. About three years ago, the couple decided to take the leap and open a restaurant in Chantilly, Virginia. The first Chit Chaat cafe opened in the summer of 2019 after lengthy delays.

RelatedWhy America’s Gas Stations Are Great Dining DestinationsIntrigued by the business opportunity to own a gas station, the family bought the ExxonMobil in Vienna in 2021. They had no plans to open a restaurant inside, but they soon recognized the potential of serving customers on the go. For the first few months of business, the family packaged prepared meals in the Chantilly kitchen and sold them at the gas station. Once they realized there was a demand, they decided to build another kitchen.

“We wanted to make sure that we were delivering to our customers the promise of fresh, homemade food,” says Neil Puri, the son who manages finances for the business. Neil says open flames are not allowed inside a gas station, so the family makes due with electric stovetops. “There’s definitely less room for cooking,” he says, “but mainly we are seeing more traffic than we thought of initially so we are learning to be more efficient in the limited space.”

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