WILKES-BARRE – When someone says let's eat, you can now go to Letts Eat – Flavors of India, the latest addition to the growing downtown.
The restaurant on South Main Street opened Friday with a buffet lunch featuring toned down spicy authentic Indian food, said co-owner Kavita Syed. We offer more of a home-cooked Indian style, Syed said. We don't over-spice, or over-sauce or use too much cream. Everything's yummy.
Syed's husband, Abid, operates several mini-mart/gas stations in the region called Fuel-Up or Fuel-On. They also have a restaurant – Kati Roll Indian Grill – in Exton.
The Syeds live in Drums with their two daughters: Aleeza, 9, and Khushi, 6. Syed said Aleeza came up with the restaurant's name.
We wanted to spell it differently to attract attention, Syed said.
Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, said he loved the samosa appetizer, a crispy vegetable turnover made from flour and filled with green peas and potatoes.
Earlier Friday, Newman spoke to the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association regarding storefront occupancy data for the years 2000 to 2012. He compared the number of new businesses opening in downtown storefronts during a given year, compared to the number of businesses closing that same year.
In 2012, we saw seven downtown storefront businesses close, and 11 storefront businesses open, for a net year-over-year increase of four occupied storefronts, Newman said.
During the 13-year span, he said, the downtown has seen constant net growth – more stores opening than closing.
And this has occurred during perhaps the worst economic climate we have ever seen, said Newman. We've managed to create a climate in the downtown where businesses see opportunity.
Mayor Thomas Leighton, who attended Friday's restaurant opening, said every time a store closes it gets big headlines.
As Larry just said, more stores have opened than have closed, he said. Right on this corner we have two new diverse businesses – an Indian Restaurant and a sushi restaurant, Akeno Sushi.
Newman seized on the mayor's point, noting that in a two- to three-block area, the downtown featured several different ethnic restaurants. He said that within walking distance the downtown offers Mexican, Italian, Thai, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Chinese and Indian cuisine, in addition to traditional barbecue, pizza and wings and hoagie shops.
Newman and Leighton said times have been difficult for non-restaurant retail shops. Many large retailers start closing stores at this time of year, but both men said Boscov's reported good numbers for its Wilkes-Barre operation.
We have seen successful stores in the downtown – Outrageous, LS and the Bee Hive – to name a few, Newman said. The key is offering quality products to a specific target audience.
• Located at 78 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre.
• Open for lunch: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Saturday
• Dinner served: 5 to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; closed on Sunday.
• Contact: 371-3890; website – www.letts-eat.com; on Facebook @ Letts Eat – Flavors of India