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Ruta’s Fresh Indian Fare lives up to its name in its new location

 A temporary sign above a storefront on a dark-colored cinder-block building reads "Ruta's Fresh Indian Fare," with a bright blue sky overhead.
Brett Krzykowski

I adore Indian food. I also forgot my lunch today. So you can imagine my joy when the universe served up this little happenstance:

Ruta’s Fresh Indian Fare, previously known as Ruta’s Vibrant Indian Cafe during its nearly two-year run at Crossroads Collective, officially opened Tuesday in Walker’s Point. The new space at 207 W. Freshwater Way (right next to Purple Door Ice Cream) carries with it several benefits for owner Ruta Kahata:

  • A larger kitchen that allows for the opportunity to expand the menu
  • A dedicated space to be more hands-on with the overall vibe
  • Walking distance for Radio Milwaukee staff

That last one is admittedly self-serving, but speaking more generally, the Walker’s Point neighborhood is building a solid culinary reputation that creates a “rising tide lifts all boats” situation. Particularly with the weather being more cooperative, people circulate through the area in search of a bite, and Ruta’s — as of yesterday — adds a unique flavor.

Just like at Crossroads, the focus is on fresh and healthful dishes — two adjectives that do not come at the expense of “delicious.” I had the opportunity to enjoy Ruta’s when it was “Vibrant,” and I can report the enjoyment hasn’t diminished in its current “Fresh” iteration.

Before we get to the food, let’s talk about the space. After a very warm welcome, Kahate delivered a small caveat that they’re still finishing up the decor on the east wall of the restaurant. Even with that bit to finish up, the place feels bright without being overpowering and fresh while still having some substance to it — exactly like the food.

On the ordering front, flexibility is everything. You move through a three-chalkboard process (four if you’re grabbing a drink and/or dessert) with a handful of choices at each stop. In the mood for a bowl or a naanmelt? Feeling meaty or veggie? Spicy or mild? Then get your four vegetable sides, and you’re good to go.

Brett Krzykowski

Despite the relative simplicity, I felt extremely unprepared/unqualified to make the “correct” choices and relied heavily on the young lady behind the counter who couldn’t have been more patient or accommodating. She offered suggestions based on my ability to handle heat and provided a gentle nudge toward options that went better with the bowls-in-progress. The end result was a rice bowl with pork roast, spicy mirchi, rainbow salad, turmeric carrots and kale slaw, plus a little fresh green chutney.

Before I put on my reviewer’s hat, I’ll quickly note that I’m not typically a “fresh and healthful” kind of guy. Multiple vegetables confuse me, and dishes in which meat is outnumbered by non-meat baffle me even more.

There was nothing puzzling about what Ruta’s put on my plate today. The pork was tender, the vegetables crisp, and the sauces well-balanced. It was bright and light with just the right amount of heat for me — the kind that’ll clear your sinuses without napalming your taste buds.

Brett Krzykowski

Most importantly, when it was gone, I was satisfied rather than stuffed. A good kind of full rather than the “thank goodness I have a standing desk because I would definitely fall asleep if I sat down right now” kind. Exactly the kind of full where you can make the short walk to Purple Door and, because you just ate a healthy meal, get an extra scoop while still feeling good about yourself. That is how food math works, people.

Ruta’s Fresh Indian Fare is open on the corner of South 2nd Street and West Freshwater Way from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.