How Oak Tree Road Became an Indian Shopping Mecca
Oak Tree Road's
fame as the Indian shopping destination in New Jersey started in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Here's what Indian American writer Akhil Sharma
, who grew up in the Edison area, has to say about Oak Tree Road in his new novel Family Life
Even when I left for college, shops had begun to open on the ground floors of the old houses that used to line Oak Tree Road where it enters Iselin. People ran businesses from living rooms. The houses were pressed together and had narrow, fragile front porches that vibrated when you stepped onto them. The old white men and women who lived next door would pull aside their curtains to look at you when you arrived. Inside there was usually a freezer that contained fish that someone had smuggled from Bengal.The shops carried packets of seeds for bitter gourd and the deep red carrots one finds in India which are illegal to import. There would be old women in the back who didn't speak English and who prepared food for parties. Occasionally there was a child watching TV or doing homework.
In my first two years of college, some of the houses were gutted and made into ordinary stores. Others were torn down. I saw all this. I came home perhaps twice a month, bringing laundry and taking back food. I returned so often because my mother would phone crying.
Source: Family Life by Akhil Sharma, p.210-211
Little India on Oak Tree Road
To the unaccustomed eye, the sheer number of Indian stores on Oak Tree Road with their dazzling displays of jewelry, dresses and food items might seem like a grand shopping festival.
Oak Tree Road is busiest during weekends.
Over the weekends, Indian families descend on the area in their BMWs, Camrys, Acuras and Honda Pilots to visit the beauty parlor, bite into spicy Samosa Chaat, get a pretty dress for an upcoming party, stock up on grocery, see a Bollywood movie, visit the desi
insurance agent, book an airline ticket from an Indian travel agent to visit the homeland India, sip a Mango Lassi or buy some glittering gold jewelery.
But it's the large collection of Indian restaurants that lends Oak Tree Road its fame these days.
Whether it's North Indian or South Indian, Gujarati Thali, Punjabi, Chettinad Curry, Andhra Dum Biryani or Rajasthani or Jain food, Vegetarian or Non-Vegetarian cuisine, Chaat or Sweets, Oak Tree Road in Edison and Iselin panders to every Indian culinary craving.
If you have a sweet tooth, not to worry. Oak Tree Road and surrounding streets have several Indian mithai
stores like Jalaram, Lovely Sweets
, Mithas and Moghul Sweets
to pander to your Mithai
Unlike Indian restaurants in other parts of New Jersey that attract both Indians and Americans, the Edison and Iselin restaurants around Oak Tree Road are mostly patronized by Indians. Walk into any Oak Tree Road Indian restaurant and you'll hear a babel of Indian voices.
Unfortunately, the rich choice of Indian restaurants on Oak Tree Road often does not always translate into good quality. Several Indian restaurants in the area serve awful Indian food accompanied by inept service.
To explore the many splendors of Indian cuisine, read reviews of several restaurants on OakTreeRoad.us
By the way, a lot of businesses on Oak Tree Road are closed on Mondays.
Make sure you call the business first if you plan on visiting the area on Mondays.
Whether you're craving Chicken Biryani, Masala Dosa, Jalebi, Samosa Chaat
, Mirchi Bajji, a glass of cold Lassi or piping hot Madras Coffee on Oak Tree Road or seeing the latest bollywood film, start your exploration of Little India with OakTreeRoad.us