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Santa Barbara’s Sojourner Café to Partner With Nimita’s Cuisine

Struggling eatery will start opening on Mondays to serve healthy Indian cuisine from Nimita Dhirajlal's catering company

Nimita’s Cuisine will start offering healthy Indian food at The Sojourner Cafe on Mondays, giving a portion of the day’s profits to the struggling Santa Barbara restaurant.
Nimita’s Cuisine will start offering healthy Indian food at The Sojourner Cafe on Mondays, giving a portion of the day’s profits to the struggling Santa Barbara restaurant.    (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

The Sojourner Café will no longer be closed on Mondays starting Aug. 24, when Nimita’s Cuisine will begin popping up in the space once a week.

Sojourner Café owner Donna Mudge and Nimita Dhirajlal of her namesake catering company formed the partnership to help Mudge’s eatery at 134 E. Canon Perdido St. stay afloat during a rough financial patch.

Having heard through the grapevine that Mudge might be in trouble, Dhirajlal reached out this month and offered to pay the restaurant a portion of her Monday profits.

“We want to re-energize Sojourner,” Dhirajlal said.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to help her take care of the bills.”

Mudge put out the call to save the Sojourner in a February Noozhawk story, asking patrons to return and announcing her search for a business partner or investor. 

Since then, supporters have come out of the woodworks.

As one strong, hardworking woman to another, Dhirajlal said she saw a parallel between the two business concepts.

Mudge serves healthy food choices and genuinely wants the Sojourner to succeed for the community’s sake.

She bought the 37-year-old restaurant from the original owner in 1999, having worked there as a part owner, prep cook, line cook and server for 11 years. She started closing the Sojourner on Mondays last year.

Dhirajlal started Nimita’s Cuisine in 2010, offering nourishing Indian cuisine with a Santa Barbara twist. She has a food truck that’s currently being upgraded, and the business operates out of a kitchen at Earl Warren Showgrounds.

“Meatless Mondays” and vegetarian options are in the works for Nimita’s Sojourner menu, which could extend to the everyday menu, depending on reception.

Her current offerings include Ayurvedic meals, or holistic-healing focused vegetarian options such as soups, salads, chutneys, curries and more.

“I thought this operation would offer a new taste for Sojourner,” said Dhirajlal, who’s also a local therapist.

“Two women supporting each other. She’s a fabulous woman with integrity.”

Dhirajlal, who will still do catering, is familiar with community outreach and hopes to help raise funds to update parts of the Sojourner.

Mudge is a fan of Nimita’s Cuisine, having enjoyed her food at festivals over the years. She’s known Dhirajlal as a customer and is equally excited about the new opportunity and trial run.

“We just started talking about what we can do for the community,” Mudge said.

“I feel like this is going to get us back on track. Our connection feels really nurturing. It gives her a venue, and it’ll give me a boost in many ways.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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