If you were to ask chef Navin Ajodhya a year ago if he ever envisioned himself opening a Caribbean restaurant in the Midwest, he would not only say he hadn’t considered it, but would have assured you he wouldn’t want to. “For years, I told all my buddies, everyone that knows me from the food truck, that I would never open a restaurant [because of] the stress, the additional manpower, the uncertainties, all that fun stuff,” he said. Ajodhya had enjoyed his time working for the Trucking Delicious food truck business that he founded in 2015, but felt there was something missing.
In 2019, Ajodhya and his wife Rebecca launched the popular Mount Vernon bakery Half Baked, their first try of a restaurant that was not on wheels. Half Baked completely changed Ajodhya’s attitude towards being a restaurant owner. “I love serving people. I love it,” he said. “It allows me to be myself. This is a great community we have here, it really is.” They have thoroughly enjoyed their time at the bakery, so much so that it led them to found two restaurants right next door to it: Georgetown BBQ and Cindy’s Pierogis. The restaurants split the same space, featuring a shared kitchen and a shared menu.
Georgetown BBQ is much more than a restaurant to Ajodhya. “I consciously try to approach the branding in such a way as to keep it wide, but gives us the opportunity to share our background a little more intimately. So instead of just labelling it as Caribbean, as you start to know us and as you start to know the menu, the stories will start to fall in line,” he said.
Discussing menu items, Ajodhya described the tension between maintaining an authentic taste and appealing to those who are not acquainted with it. “Sometimes we’re worried about being too authentic because then it’s too spicy, it’s too hot… But it’s delicious! We try to approach it this way so we can differentiate ourselves but still be relatable,” he said.
The Ajodhyas’ dedication to their original style establishes itself in the restaurant’s atmosphere. Upon entry, you’re greeted with a large, semi-open kitchen, allowing customers to observe as food is prepped, cooked and served. Ajodhya described the kitchen design as having a “Chipotle-style workflow,” explaining that it will provide the open, wholesome environment he hopes to embody with the restaurant. Hints of Guyanese and Polish influence are scattered all throughout the restaurant: One wall contains a mural featuring Guyana’s iconic landmarks and natural beauty, with another bearing the Polish flag.
While integrating their stories into the restaurant’s design, the Ajodhyas were committed to preserving a staple of the Mount Vernon community, the High Restaurant, in their choice to keep and restore the original floors and ceiling. When describing how they’re differentiating themselves with their unique design elements, Ajodhya mentioned that, “We’re doing things a little differently to accentuate the market, not to add on to what’s already out there. We’re doing things our own way.”
While the restaurant is closed until Sept. 14, Ajodhya urged the Kenyon community to stay tuned as his team is working to organize a delivery service specifically for the campus, with more developments to come this holiday season. “What’s so great about food is the ability to break down barriers and bring us together,” he said. “I’ll be ready for you guys.”
Georgetown BBQ is located at 1 W. High Street in Mount Vernon and can be reached at email@example.com. Updates about opening will be posted to their Facebook page, Georgetown BBQ-Caribbean Inspired BBQ.