Convenience With an Extra Ingredient

At the Chit Chaat Café inside a Mobil, the Indian street food comes with a healthy dollop of love.

October 18, 2023

(This article first appeared in NACS Magazine’s October 2023 issue.)

When Neil Puri began renovating the Mobil gas station in Vienna, Virginia, in 2021, he wanted to offer his customers something they couldn’t get anywhere else—his mother’s North Indian cuisine. “Our son asked us to recreate the Indian street food we loved from our home country,” said his mother, Bindu Puri, who is the chef and makes all the vegetarian dishes for the Chit Chaat Café. His father, Raja Puri, manages the kitchen and makes all the meat dishes.

“There’s so much ready-made food available, we wanted to do something different for our gas station customers,” said Bindu. “Many people who hear about how good our food is can’t believe we’re in a gas station.”

The restaurant is hard to find, without much visible signage on the outside of the station. Inside, it offers only takeout, with the Puris working in a small space behind a closed door. That doesn’t stop the crowds from coming.


In creating the menu, the Puris had one underlying philosophy—healthy food made with love. “All of our dishes are made without excess butter or oil, and nothing is ever frozen. I also make my own sauces and spice mixes,” Bindu said.

The simple menu starts with samosas, including a burrito version; butter chicken; chili chicken platters; curries; chicken biryani; and pani puri, a popular Indian street dish made with the Puris “super-duper secret spicy water,” which is the condiment for the dish. Daily specials round out the list, but Bindu will often create something off-menu for customers if they ask about a specific dish.

For both Puris, the extra ingredient that flavors all their meals is love. “When you put love in the food, your customers can tell,” she said. “That’s why they love us.”

The café has garnered a following among younger customers, who tell Bindu her cooking reminds them of the food shared with their families. “I’m like their auntie and Raja is like their uncle—they appreciate us and our meals so much,” Bindu said.

Besides the café, the c-store stocks traditional snacks and ready-made food. The open floor plan maximizes the footprint with low gondolas and warm wood tones, creating a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.

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