Quick-service restaurant Dabba, whose first location opened downtown in 2016, has expanded with a second branch in the Marina at 2240 Chestnut Street (between Pierce and Scott Streets). After some permitting delays, it’s ready to serve more of the burritos, bowls, and tacos in mashup flavors (Caribbean, Indian, Mexican, Cajun) that are popular lunch fare with SoMa and FiDi workers.
Dabba takes its name from the hindi word for lunchbox, and more specifically Mumbai’s system for ferrying hot dishes to workers. But its spices are just “50 percent Indian” in CEO Andy Mercy’s estimation. Instead of Indian or Indian-fusion, Dabba pegs its menu as “ethnic confusions” and a “mashup of far away flavors with the freshest local ingredients.”
Some of those flavors actually originate just over the bridge in Marin County, where Mercy was inspired by Avatar’s Restaurant and its chef Ashok Kumar, who has mixed Mexican and Indian dishes for years. Kumar is involved at Dabba, and paid royalties and equity. To refine the menu at Dabba, Mercy enlisted chef Walter Abrams, previously the executive chef at Spruce.
The result: Menu options that include cajun-spiced blackened chicken, lamb curry, and jerk pork, served on homemade tortillas or by the bowl with basmati rice, quinoa, or pureed vegetables.
So what, after all, is Dabba? “I don’t know exactly what to call it, but I know where it came from,” says Mercy. “It’s what happens when you get a Jewish New Yorker, a Colombian Michelin chef, and an Indian restaurateur together — this is what you get.”
The new space has seating for 26 (and outdoor seating for 12) plus options for take-out. It was designed by Gi Paoletti Design Lab, who revamped the former Seed + Salt space (which they also created). It’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.