DERRY — When East Derry General Store owner Samir Patel and his wife, Lina Patel, hired a contractor to build an addition to the back of the 200-year-old general store last year, the original plan was to install a walk-in cooler for an expanded craft beer selection and to use the downstairs area for storage.
But after the contractor made a mistake with the framing and made the ceiling too high in the downstairs space, the couple thought, “Why not add a restaurant?”
Samir Patel said the total refit cost them about $1 million, but that business at the East Derry Tavern has been booming since it opened last December.
“It’s going very good, very busy,” he said during a ribbon cutting Thursday to celebrate nearly a year in business.
Tuesdays are particularly busy as the restaurant offers a weekly Indian food menu in addition to its regular American food offerings.
“We’re packed,” Patel said. “On Tuesday night, we’re like jam-packed.”
The restaurant has indoor seating for 49. An outdoor patio seats 60, Patel said.
One of the more popular items on the menu, Patel said, is the Nor’Easter Grilled Cheese, which is made with a slow-cooked pot roast, Muenster cheese and sourdough bread. He said it’s the eatery’s no. 1 seller, and the reigning champion in the savory category for the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce’s Taste of the Region event.
The bar has several taps, with a broad selection of local and national craft beers.
Between the store and the restaurant, Patel said there are about 30 employees and two kitchens. The head chef is Nick Dodge, and the bar manager is Tony Santos.
“It’s nice to see a business grow and change, and especially one like this that offers more diverse dining options,” said Derry Economic Development Director Beverly Donovan.
A handful of state lawmakers were on hand for the ceremony, including state Sen. Regina Birdsell, who presented a resolution congratulating the business on its opening and wishing it success in the future.
Patel said his family has been in Derry for 15 years as the owners of the general store. The general store has a long, storied history in town. Several old photographs of the general store are hanging on the walls inside the restaurant.