Little Rock’s food truck scene has undeniably fallen off some since its peak in 2014. Most of the trucks from that time are now primarily permanent restaurants; The Southern Gourmasian, Pizzeria Santa Lucia (now The Pizzeria), Hot Rod Wieners (Pea Farm Bistro in Cabot) and kBird are some of the obvious examples. Katmandu Momo has also transitioned to a brick-and-mortar spot, leasing a space inside the River Market’s Ottenheimer Hall. But unlike most businesses that cut back on the truck side when they opened their restaurants, Katmandu Momo sees the permanent spot as more of a springboard to help support the truck business.
“The best part about it is being able to run the food truck smoothly out of that,” said Kyler Nordeck, who owns Katmandu Momo with his wife Saroza. “Keeping the food truck going, for us, it’s been excellent having storage, prep space, being able to fill up the food truck and having a home base there.”
Katmandu Momo opened its River Market location back in April and has settled in nicely. The hall has one of the most diverse collections of culinary cultures anywhere in the state. Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Japanese, Thai and now Nepali food can all be found in the main building. That means a wide variety of customers coming through and experiencing Katmandu Momo for the first time.
“When we opened, we expected to have a lot of returning customers,” said Kyler. “But we started looking at the reports and realized that most of our customers were new. It’s like starting all over again, attracting a new clientele and exposing us to people who have never had Nepalese food.”
Of course, one of the biggest perks of having a permanent spot is the ability to experiment with the menu. Both the truck and restaurant serve the eponymous momo, those delicious dumplings packed with flavors of garlic, ginger, cumin and coriander. But the restaurant is the only location to try Katmandu Momo’s Chow Mein, and it’s worth stopping in just for that. Chow mein is typically thought of as Chinese food, but here you get to see the wonderful combination of influences that make Nepal cuisine so interesting. It’s a strong, spiced and fragrant dish of stir-fried noodles that instantly clues you in on its origins.
“What I do is marinated chicken with garam masala [traditional South Asian spice mix] and other spices and veggies as well, like bell peppers and carrots and onions,” said Saroza. “It’s very much Nepali food, anywhere you go in Nepal you’re going to get chow mein.”
Katmandu Momo sticks to momo and chow mein during the week to make sure customers can stop by for a quick lunch before heading back to work. But on the weekend, you can sometimes find Saroza experimenting with some gluten-free dishes or other items that take more time to put together. Of course, the River Market area is still somewhat small, leaving Kyler and Saroza hoping for another upgrade in the future.
“We’ve always dreamed of having a sit-down restaurant with a full menu,” said Saroza. “ It would allow us to do a more widely varied cuisine. We have so much food we can explore, but we have to buy a lot of spices and prep a lot, and if we don’t sell, we have to throw it away. A sit-down restaurant cuts down on that.”
For now, you can visit Katmandu Momo Monday–Saturday from 10:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Be sure to follow Katmandu Momo on Facebook for weekly updates on the truck’s location.