Manhattan Bagel on West Main Street is still serving up traditional breakfast fare during the day.
But the year-old business is now leading a second life at night when it transforms into Swahili Kitchen, the first African restaurant in Middletown.
"No one comes in to buy bagels after 2 p.m., but we're paying rent for the entire day, so we figured we might as well come up with a way to use the place at night," explained Rishen Patel, the 27-year-old owner of both businesses. "We decided to stick with food, but Middletown already has every type of food you can think of, except African-style. So that's why we decided to give it a try."
Swahili Kitchen's menu includes marinated leg quarters called sekela, marinated chicken breasts called mshikaki, spicy barbecue chicken called pili pili and pork kabobs with sides that include homemade sauces, cole slaw, rice and French fries.
"If someone asked me to try African food, I would probably be skeptical, too," Patel said. "That's why we're starting small and offering samples, so our customers can get used to it. Once we're sure they like it, we'll look to open Swahili Kitchen in its own location."
The new venture also allows the Patel and his wife Heeral the chance to share a little bit of their native Tanzania with their adopted hometown.
Patel moved to Delaware from the East African nation in 2010, leaving behind his business management studies at the Financial Training Center in Dar es Salaam, as well as a spot on the national cricket team.
"I got my green card in 2003, when I visited my family here, including my uncle who lives in Middletown," he said. "My grandfather always wanted to have a business in the United States, so I decided to move here and get something started while he was still alive. Once I came back, I saw how much the town had grown and knew this is where I wanted to be."
In addition to launching Middletown's Manhattan Bagel franchise in 2012, Patel also is co-owner of the TJ Food Mart and TJ Auto Repair on Marsh Road in Wilmington.
Later this month, he and Heeral plan to launch a home and commercial cleaning business in Middletown.
"This is a great place to do business," he said. "The town council is very understanding and in Middletown everyone knows everyone so it's very friendly. Business is picking up every day and our customers seem very impressed."
The new businesses at 400 W. Main St. will not impact Uncle Mike's Ice Cream & Water Ice, which has shared the same storefront as Manhattan Bagel since May.
Uncle Mike's will continue to operate from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Page 2 of 2 - "I think the new restaurant is great for us, because it will help bring in dinner customers and we'll bring in dessert customers," Uncle Mike's owner Paul Masone said. "I think we really complement each other, plus their food is great."