Ninder Josan and Kuldeep Singh standing in front of Apna.
Ninder Josan and Kuldeep Singh have opened Apna, and Indian food restaurant, at 718 State St. in downtown Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

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For 30-year-old Ninder Josan, cooking is in the blood.

It’s been a family business since he was boy, all he’s ever really known really.

He learned his mother’s “true” recipes for Indian food, and now has brought his skills and passion to downtown Santa Barbara. 

On Monday, Josan opened “Apna,” which means “Ours,” at 718 State St. 

“Indian food has a bad reputation for being too spicy,” Josan told Noozhawk. “True Indian food is flavorful. I love cooking Indian food.”

Josan opened the restaurant with his brother, Kuldeep Singh, 35. The family owns two other restaurants, Saffron in Newbury Park and Tantra in Oak Park. 

The brothers had always been looking for a spot in Santa Barbara, and came across the restaurant in commercial listings. The previous occupants, Goa Taco, decided to vacate and move back to Australia.

Recognizing the popularity of Goa Taco, Josan decided to keep some of the dishes, including the Paratha tacos, with pork belly, tofu and pesto. He also plans to bring back the duck and tuna. He hired two of Goa Taco’s cooks

He began with a soft opening on Monday and slowly plans to ramp up over the summer. He intends to install art on the walls and replace some of the seating.

A sausage dish served at Apna, an Indian food restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara.

A sausage dish served at Apna, an Indian food restaurant at 718 State St. in downtown Santa Barbara. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Josan cooks all of the Indian dishes, including his specialties, such as the Nirvana curry with chopped red onions, bell peppers and coconut milk. He also specializes in Indian fusion, such as his curry waffle fries and butter chicken with tomato sauce.

In addition to his traditional Indian cuisine, Josan said he plans to add seafood to the menu. 

“We are a beach town; seafood needs to be on the menu,” Josan said. 

The space does not have a history of long tenancy. In the past 10 years, it has been home to Fatburger, Killer B Barbecue, Goa Taco and several other businesses

Josan is confident that Apna has a long future on the block. He encourages people to come in and try the food.

“It’s really rewarding to see an empty plate,” he said, “or to hear a compliment. “

The restaurant also serves beer, including Indian versions, and wine, and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily.  

Santa Barbara Straw Ban Takes Effect

Santa Barbara’s plastic straw ban is now in full force. The local law went into effect on July 1.

The new ordinance states that restaurants, cafes, bars, convenient stores, caterers, and hotels cannot distribute plastic and compostable plant-based plastic straws and stirrers.

The ordinance also states that all plastic cutlery, compostable plastic cutlery, and alternative single-use straws are required to be “on demand.” For these “on demand” items, customers will have to verbally ask for them or the employee will have to ask the customer if they would like them before distribution.

Compostable straws that are made of a plastic polymer derived from plants (instead of petroleum) called polylactic acid (PLA) and only compostable in some commercial composting facilities are also banned because they are not compostable in local yellow business foodscraps bins, and are not certified to biodegrade in the natural environment.

Food or beverage providers are exempt from the ordinance if they provide a plastic beverage straw to a person in order to assure full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.