UPDATED Friday, Feb. 15: Mela has posted this statement on its FB page:
Hey Everybody! We want to apologize to all of the great people out there with food trucks trying to make a living in Asheville, who were hurt and disappointed by our ad in the Asheville Scene. Just want to let you all know that it was not Anoop who wrote or approved the ad, but me, his partner and ex-wife. We are hoping that those of you who were hurt and offended by the ad will find it in your hearts to forgive… please don’t blame Anoop or the good people also trying to make a living Mela Indian Restaurant who had nothing to do with the ad. Best wishes to all of you and apologies again
Thursday, Feb. 14: Folks who noticed an ad last week in the Asheville Scene for Mela restaurant on Lexington Avenue are buzzing about its contents. In plain language, the Indian restaurant takes direct and critical aim at competitors. A sample:
Had enough with frozen, reheated “street food” and eating in parking lots out of trucks? You don’t have to spend a lot for real naan and grilled chicken, lamb and fish prepared the way it should be, in Asheville’s only tandoor oven – or house-made, from-scratch chutneys and raita – or authentically prepared butter chicken, the original Malabar chicken curry and peach shorba.
I’m reading that “street food” reference as a criticism of Chai Pani, another popular local Indian restaurant on Battery Park Avenue. The food truck shot is clear.
What do you folks think? Is Mela all that? Is there too much reheated crap food on the streets? Let’s hear it. Here’s the full ad:
Let’s move on. It’s not like the guy punched a woman in the face.
Wonder why they keep saying they’re Asheville’s ‘only tandoor oven’ when Cinnamon Kitchen has one as well?
As an addition to what has been said above, our school organization asked for a food donation from Mela and was declined. When I relayed this to our school, it was evident that others had had this experience also with Mela. So much for local community support.
They only pulled their “ad”, masquerading as a write-up, to protect their bottom line.
if i had a restaurant, i would want everyone else to fail. the food business is the best example of dog eat dog capatilism in this country. it’s fun to watch and hear about restaurant closings…..makes me smile. i hope mela is forced to close and the food trucks go belly up as well. i have never been to either, but i know the “culture”, and it needs to be destroyed. Asheville food and drink culture is a perfect example of how empty the average persons life is.
There’s a lot of people in this down who would be jobless if this “culture” was destroyed. Not sure what your point is on this one.
Are Chai Pani and Gypsy Queen the Official restaurants or sponsors of The Scene?
I just love the FAKE names of people criticizing anonymously. Wow, Asheville is a cesspool of hate if you ask me. A silly ad, followed by an apology and more hate. It’s easy hating when you are anonymous. And ashevegas is a new forum for that. Attack anyone, and continue attacking them even if they apologise or had nothing to do with it.
Really Jason, you partners with a food truck? One lil ad and you wanna hang someone? Dude take a deep breath, loosen that belt of yours. Lol you starting to sound like a hater yourself
Put some more paneer on the buffet and I’ll forgive.
Here here!!! Bring back buffet paneer!
Ok thats enough, point taken, move on, its friday! who’s got the friday feeling….i love a curry on a friday Mela or Chai Panini? i haven’t decided yet…..both restaurants do a great job, Anoop you have a wonderful restaurant, its the best venue in town, Chai pani do a great fish wrap for a saturday afternoon and the food truckers are a great addition to the towns restaurants…..one thing is i should be the DJ at Mela, i have a wicked Ravi Shankar collection! now everyone Chill Winston don’t you know a meteor is about to pass the earth!!??
I think the ad funny. It may have been a little over top but come on people. Really? And ashevegas run this as a story? This is starting to smack of a little brown people hate. ex wife runs an ad and the hate rolls on him. Man, you people messed up. Oh yes send a message to the brown peeps, stay in line or u gonna get busted by the concern locals. Yup, the goody locals who don’t like anyone succeeding or workin. Rite
I don’t think so. There are plenty of brown people who own food trucks. It’s Mela who is being elitist and making attacks; this coverage did not come out of nowhere.
God this town is full of haters. A line in an ad and the hate starts to spew. Oh the self righteous indignation of the haters.
Say what you want about the ad, it was totally lame, and if Anoop has personally wronged you, you’re entitled to your opinion of him, but don’t just make shit up because you’re mad. Sysco frozen food? Please. That’s insulting to Diogo, Christian, Luis…
It’s not insulting to them, it’s a testament to their craft. Be honest, they have frozen Sysco food to work with. In the summer, they even contend with an air-conditioned room in lieu of a legitimate walk-in! Those guys in the kitchen are amazing, I agree, but the bulk of the food is Sysco and is frozen. In my opinion, they should be should be paid (and treated) better.
Chai Pani and Mela offer two vastly different types of cuisine. India is a big country with centuries of varied cultural influences, inspired by regions, religion, and climate. Chai Pani is “street food” while Mela features traditional curry dishes. It’s not like comparing McDonalds and Burger King, it’s like comparing Jalisco Hacienda to Taco Bell. For the most part, Chai Pani and Mela attract very different clientele, as well. And as for the food trucks…you’re either in a hurry or not; you’re either in the mood for full-service, sit-down dining or you’re not. If you want Greek food outside on a 30 min lunch break, you have gypsy queen; if you want to sip chai over a leisurely lunch break with colleagues, you go to Mela. There is nothing else like Chai Pani in Asheville, nor is there another Mela (sorry Indian Garden, no contest). And food trucks are not a threat to any indoor establishment; they simply add to the variety and character abundant in WNC. The as was inappropriate and preemptive, unnecessary and unfounded. But the backlash is just ridiculous.
As a gluten-free vegan, there is a handful of restaurants, even in the abundant food haven that is Asheville, that i can enjoy carefree, and mela is easily one if my favorites. As expressed in other comments, there really is no competition, I like to dine on a variety old cuisines, including Thai, Japanese, Latin, American, and Indian. I am grateful that I can order right off them menu without requesting special preparations to accommodate my dietary restrictions, or hit the buffet any day of the week and find my fill of really yummy gluten-free vegan food for a really reasonable price. The service is usually exceptional, the atmosphere is cozy and cool, and the food is always pleasing. I will continue to patronize mela and send my friends and family.
She was asked to remove it by a PR person, following an inappropriate “ex-wife” comment.
Mela is complete crap. I have eaten Indian from NYC to LA and most stops in between, and Mela is garbage. Tepid, uninspired garbage.
Catherine – The mean spirit of the ad is not made up for by your apology. You are sorry because this is hurting your business, not because you actually regret the ad. I won’t be back.
It’s actually not hurting business. The apology was sincere and unprovoked. However, if business were to suffer, it wouldn’t be Cathy who was struck, but the hard-working immigrant kitchen staff, and delightful waitstaff, many of whom are single mothers and/or students trying to make the rent. And they had no knowledge of the ad until it was printed. Don’t punish the wrong people. Retribution doesn’t benefit anyone.
Oh dear god, f*** you.
What about the hardworking immigrants who own food trucks and other Indian restaurants, the single mothers who own food trucks (I can think of at least 1)? Are they not as much part of the community?
Restaurant owners always hide their bad behavior behind these types of appeals.
On another subject, I find the apology by the wife really weird and unnecessarily self-effacing, like it was written at gunpoint or something ‘I swear, this was not Anoop’s idea!’ LOL What a strange public relations choice.
Nice try “former employee”. I think it’s pretty easy to discern you identity.
in all fairness, as someone who once worked there, the employees had nothing to do with this ad. They probably are as pissed as you all are. Don’t bash the employees on this one. They fully support all other local businesses in this town. Anoop has also has helped a lot in the community, especially the school system. This is a oops in the books, and Cathy apologized. What’s done is done, but the food is still yummy regardless!
I second that, as a former employee I loved working there and have the utmost respect for the restaurant. Say what you want, get rude, snivel and rant. An honest apology was made by his ex, is that not enough for the demigods at ashevegas and their legion of followers? Sheesh.
Since when it is ok to jab at others for attention! What happened to supporting one another? This is why I live in Asheville, because of the community. I have seen the ad maybe 3 times in the last 2 months, so it was done intentionally by both owners,trying to apologize and play it off is insulting, she had to do that because they looked bad to the community. Enough is enough, respect one another! If they feel the need to jab at other businesses, then take a jab at Burger King or McDonalds, not your neighbors!
Mea Culpa from the Mela Facebook page: Hey Everybody! We want to apologize to all of the great people out there with food trucks trying to make a living in Asheville, who were hurt and disappointed by our ad in the Asheville Scene. Just want to let you all know that it was not Anoop who wrote or approved the ad, but me, his partner and ex-wife. We are hoping that those of you who were hurt and offended by the ad will find it in your hearts to forgive… please don’t blame Anoop or the good people also trying to make a living Mela Indian Restaurant who had nothing to do with the ad. Best wishes to all of you and apologies again
There are much classier ways to advertise. And this is not the first time Mela has pulled some snotty, judgemental public stunts either.
Then it is time for a COOK OFF!! Best of Ashevillie’s Indian Cuisine People’s Choice Award!
@ street food prices of course with the first 150 plates free. hhaha
Thanks everybody. We got the message and will change the ad. Please don’t blame Anoop for this as it was me, co-owner and partner, who was responsible. I confess to being out of touch and probably not someone who should be in the restaurant business. Mela remains a great restaurant with Asheville’s only tandoor oven, run by a good guy who has come a long way from very humble beginnings. We’ll try another ad to explain ourselves better and apologize for treading on people’s toes. Amen for the First Amendment, and best wishes, Catherine Cambron, co-owner of Mela
Go to Cinnamon Garden… in “South Asheville” sister restaurant to Jerusalem Garden… also strip mall mentality but excellent service, ethnic servers with warm and welcoming smiles… no buffet. Just really great fine dining INDIAN… then pop over to Carolina theater for a movie and beer… 😉
Seconding Cinnamon Kitchen as a great spot. Did not know about Jerusalem Garden connection!
My favorite aspect of eating at Mela is the attitude of the servers and hosts, all dressed so coolly in black. Their collective station in life is above yours, and you, the prospective diner, are just not hip enough to get their attention right away nor avoid the look of condescension, despite the fact that tables are empty and staff are idly chatting by the bar. Mela coasts on reputation, like many Southern restaurants. The food is good, but not great by any stretch.
I used to work at Boca, Mela’s sister restaurant. Let’s just say the day I heard one of the Chef’s refer to the food as “Curry covered Sysco” I lost interest. I won’t elaborate on my other qualms, although there are many.
I don’t eat there and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else eat there either.
Also, since when is it good etiquette to jab at other hard-working small business owners just to make yourself look better?
Shame on you, Mela, for being a bully.
whats the big deal about this? so what, who cares? the owner of mela has a right to his opinions. i think its funny actually. yall dont be so up tight. i like food truck food, and chai pani, and mela is great too. and that restaurant also really helped pioneer the lex making it a more attractive spot for other businesses. as everybody now comes to asheville and opens up a joint, established owners sometimes need to remind people of the originals. a little competitive jab is ok by me. so what, who cares.
Here here! Mela was indeed a Lexington ave pioneer, operating in its infancy along side prostitutes and other riff raff. Thanks for taking one for the team and believing on Asheville commerce, Anoop!
Downtown Books and News, What do you Want, Smart Music, and Vincents Ear were the shops I remember leading the charge to re vitalize Lexington Ave. in the early 90s. Through out the 90s Lexington Ave. was a creative area full of different businesses. Mela came in after all the hard work had been done!
Is this the guy who sold boca to the central tennessee chain of tacos? The guys who say they are independently owned (with applebees and papa johns shareholders)? I’d love to hear why boca closed and why he thinks it is appropriate to sell his business to a tennessee chain. And why he thinks his mediocre expensive dumbed-down indian food is so much better than other places.
I really thought that Anoop had outgrown his childish phase.
His behavior in the past has been far from pleasant towards his employees, his neighbor businesses, as well as his competition.
This is just shameful in my opinion.
Perhaps he’s bitter that Boca went under and he’s throwing a tantrum. Regardless, this saddens me greatly. I hope that the food trucks and Chai Pani don’t stoop to his level.
Anoop has very loyal and dedicated employees. Most of whom return to work for him after leaving. The ones who badmouth him upon leaving are those who have been let go or have quit due to their inability to pull their weight and accept criticism and correction. Everyone there believes in the food and is enthusiastic about serving it. Mela hires career servers, mature adults with years of experience and a love for pleasing the public palate with phenomenal cuisine. They take their jobs seriously and know their stuff. The manager has been there for 5 years, and most of the servers boast a 2- to 4-year commitment. The kitchen staff is part of the decor, they’ve been there so long. Anoop is a business man, not a politician, diplomat, or doormat. He stands up for his rights as a small business owner and immigrant, and doesn’t stand down for trendy socialist ideals. He’s not perfect, but he’s a decent human being who goes to great length to take care of his dedicated and loyal family of employees. And donates his food, time, and money to an array of local charities, organizations, and schools, without recognition or accolades. Maybe he just doesn’t like YOU, Mr. Stuffy.
PS – BOCA didn’t go under, it was sold for an attractive price. It was a smart business decision for man who is charged with single-handedly operating asheville’s #1 Indian restaurant (as voted by the patrons such as yourselves), and raising 2 kids who are closing in on college-age. You have beef with BOCA? That it up with the other “partner.”
while you are there, thank them for closing down Vincent’s Ear
HA, exactly! But it wasn’t them that closed our beloved rock-bar. Apparently it was the owner of the building…..
I was just thinking the same thing Lance! I remember those days far to well. Anoop seems to want to drive anything different out of business. I will never give Mela any of my money.
First off, if you live in Asheville, and work in the foodservice industry, chances are you have heard of Anoop, and his questionable tactics, so this “ad” shouldn’t surprise most of us. But for those of you who do not know, this type of petty, low brow horse manure was right in line with what we have come to expect. I could go on, but if you really want to know, just ask someone that has worked there, I’m sure they will have plenty to say.
Taking aim on the entrepreneurs that have more culinary skill in one ounce of fish sauce than Mela has in his 10,000 sq foot building, is just downright stupid. It shows how genuinely out of touch the owners of Mela are with the culture of Asheville, and I for one, never plan on going back nor suggesting it to a visitor again.
If you want a good Indian lunch buffet, go to Katmandu, the owners are amazing, they also have a store in town that directly supports indigenous craftspeople. And the food is all made in house. Same with Chai Pani, they know what it takes to make a dish as complex as dahl or curry, because they do it everyday. Tamarind is the best red curry I have had on the east coast, but they aren’t “in” Asheville.
On that note, the food that has been created on these food trucks is (mostly) incredible. Take some time and go check them out, and let them know that you support connection over division.
Just for perspective, think about it, talk about cooperation, they show up everyday with a different “competition”, parked across from them, and they get along just fine. And I have yet to see the rolling indian buffet, but still and Mela are so intimidated by a rolling kitchen ran by passionate foodie Anoop s, that perhaps they should step it up or get out of the game.
Kathmandu is delicious! The food trucks are one of the best additions Asheville has seen in a while! When I visited Portland, I remember thinking how much I wished Asheville had its own version of a food truck scene too and it seemed as though it was present and growing as soon as I got back. Love it!
Chai Pani is inventive and fun, Mela is tasty with ambiance, food trucks are (in theory) convenient and cheap. Competition and choice drives quality. If Mela feels the heat, maybe they need to step up their game instead of marketing their way to more patrons.
“Off the tourist track” HA HA HA HAHAHAHA! Ha.
Is this an ad or a write-up? If it’s an ad – big mistake. It’s insulting to lots of creative people in this town with very happy customers. I have to think it’s a write-up by the paper – one even Mela is probably upset with.
It’s made to look like a write up, but it is in fact an ad. That’s what makes it extra slimy in my opinion.
Chai Pani is not your typical Indian restaurant, unlike Mela, they take pride in authenticity they provide called “street food”! Ever been to India? If you have then you should know the difference! Chai Pani is known for its mind-blasting street food, period. Mela you can take pride in you Tandoor oven, no need to throw jabs where jabs aren’t needed. Play nice! Namaste!
Yep… and they don’t have okra fries at Mela!
I’ve lived in many different cities around the world (including a couple of places in India) and have typically found Indian food to be some of the most consistently tasty and inexpensive food options in my journeys. Mela is not only overpriced but I’ve had better Indian food from a jar at Trader Joe’s. Despite its strip mall ambiance, Indian Garden is much better, and cheaper.
So true. Mela is overpriced and less than special. India Garden is 100% strip mall inside and out, but the food is authentically spiced and delicious. Maybe it’s just too soon after the political circus has ended and I’m extra sensitive, but I find this Mela ad to be pathetic and sad. Taking down your competition in order to make yourself look good is just in poor taste.
I agree, Mela is great if you’re downtown, looking for a saucy curry, but Chai Pani is amazing for street food (try the masala fries, or the other fries) and India Garden is the AUTHENTIC spiced place!! To each his own, and depending on your price range, you can have your pick. I like having variety!
Tired of eating cheap buffet food at ridiculous prices? Tired of food coming out of Sysco boxes?
SYSCO also delivers to the Grove Park Inn … and other “upscale” places in the area …
Affirmative…all frozen…all sisco…all the time
Mela gets their FRESH produce from local vendors and the farmers market DAILY. The Indian basmati rice is INDIAN basmati rice, from India, not Sysco. That’s why they don’t offer brown rice. The lamb is from New Zealand and never frozen, and the goat, when on the menu, is from Rutherford county, they chop it on the kitchen. All of the curries, chutneys, and sauces are made from scratch, by hand, by a hard-working crew who dedicate 12 hrs/day, 6 days/wk to their work. The recipes are Anoop’s mother’s – authentic, traditional, home-cooking. He takes great pride in his spice blends and preparation techniques, which cannot be replicated, because they are family secrets, traditions handed down over generations, from the small village in Punjab, to the streets of Malaysia, and finally to this “too big for it insincere, faux progressive britches” mountain town. The vast Indian clientele, all regular, repeat customers, assert that it’s the best, most authentic Indian food they’ve had since being in the states, not just in Asheville. The ad was in poor taste simply because there is no competition for mela. It’s unique, high-quality food in a classy and modern atmosphere, with old-world style and knowledgable staff, pretty white girls or not. Ask any of them about anything on the menu, and you will get a colorfully intimate description that leaves you at a crossroads. Don’t like the $9 buffet (which is steal for the painstaking labor and resources invested)? Try dinner off the menu! You peoe don’t know good food when it’s in your own back yard. Not every restaurant south of the Mason-Dixon Line has to be BBQ to be good.
is this anoop?
Nope, just an insider with no bias.
I worked at Cinnamon Kitchen, one of Asheville’s other Indian restaurants for almost two years when the first opened. Don’t think this makes me biased against Mela. Actually it’s quite the opposite. I hated everything about Cinnamon Kitchen form the owners to the Sysco/ingles provided ingredients. I always liked Melas food much better and I openly told customers that when they asked, never will that be the case again. First of all the add is a clear misrepresentation because they do not have the only tandoori oven in town. Cinnamon Kitchen has two in their kitchen( I have pictures to prove that from when the head chief was nice enough to teach my bf how to make garlic naan). So that right there is a lie. I guess they were just hoping that people in asheville don’t know enough about Indian food to catch them on that one. Beyond that though its just in bad taste all around, and their half asses blame shifting apology on Facebook did nothing to make it better. When you do something dumb just own up to it, and this ad was dumb! Asheville is huge on supporting local businesses and if they want to claim to be supportive of that montra then that needs to mean supporting all businesses even the ones that could be considered competition. Food trucks provide a nitch for certain people just like Mela does. There is absolutely no reason to ever use this kind of cheap passive aggressive and snotty advertisements. If they were as confident in their food and service abilities as you seem to be in them then they would know they don’t need these cheap shots at putting others down to continue being successful. The reason they have been best in WNC for all these years is because they do have great food. The goat cheese naan, oh my goodness it’s to die for. I’ve had great experiences the times I have eaten there, and I always liked them better than their closest competition Cinnamon Kitchen( also the owners of India Garden). Not anymore. I love supporting my Asheville home, I can do that by eating at many other amazing restaurants in town. If you personally know the owner at Mela now would be a good time to remind him that if he wants to continue is restruant success, he needs to keep happy customers much more than the customers need his restaurant. I’m not goons spend my hard earned money on someone with a mature business model like this who needs to belittle his competition. Sorry dude it doesn’t matter how great you think you food is, if your attitude sucks then you don’t need my business. Right now The Lot is running a special that if you bring this add by you will get a dollar off at any truck. I think I’ll stop by for lunch tomorrow, I won’t be taking they dollar off though because if anyone deserves my dollar it’s the food truck owners( sorry Mela, nice knowing ya).
My name is mohan i am the one created the menus for mela and worked for anoop from 2008 april to 2012 march. Anoop does not have any culinary or food experience at all. all the products we buy from sysco (agent name is wilhem from sysco) two he is very smart man to protect his business interest at all cost. Most of the times very unusual ways he will eliminate any threats when he faced with his employees. the chai pani owner is truly very interestin character.. when i left mela he offered me a job as a chef.. i declined it. he is truly a genius in his domain when it comes to the knowledge about indian food in its fullness. come to lamb we buy lamb and goat from sysco its frozen. i am not againt anoop but i am against his lies. if u want to confirm my name hust ask the manager who works there last fie yers she will tell u abt me.
IMO MELA is by far the best Indian restaurant Asheville’s ever had. The Food Trucks are fun and fill a need. I don’t know about reheated food, I’ve always had good experiences with the Food Trucks. All that being said, competition is good, and this “provocative” ad is doing a good job highlighting both MELA and the Food Trucks. It’s making me hungry for both.
Mela is good, but for my money, Mother India on Hendersonville Rd in the 1990’s was the bee’s knees.
Mother India was fantastic.
LMAO!! Mother India was a DUMP! I went there so many times… It was great because there was no where else around. It was always affordable with those Mountain Express coupons for buy on get one free buffet, but as far as food quality… That place was a roach motel. I saw roaches there running around several times without it deterring me much. It was when I got a roach in my curry, with a golden sheen, obviously cooked in the meal, that I decided I wouldn’t go back…
i’m from London and know what a good curry is, seeing as theres a curry house every corner… I enjoy Mela, but they are a 6/10 as far as curries go, a 6/10 curry is still good cause i love um, but Mela is a great venue with medium quality food, plain and simple….. the waiters don’t know their stuff, they just get cute girls to serve you, wheres the indian waiters! Mela u aint all that mate….
First, if Mela finds the food trucks to be competition they need to take time for some serious introspection. Second, I’d view fine-dining places like Limones and Zambra as competition for Mela before I would Chai Pani, which presents itself as much more casual. That jab is simply tacky.
I’ve noticed that ad running for at least the past month, and always thought it was a bit below the belt. Stay classy, Mela!
Sounds a bit snarky for a place that’s packed whenever I go. Love it, but I love Chai Pani too… and food trucks. You can’t eat at the same place every day, Mela. Gotta mix it up! “Variety is the spice of life.”
That’s so lame. Mela should improve their buffet and shut up.