CEDAR RAPIDS — Sneh Chopra has always loved to cook, but she never planned to open her own restaurant — her father was in business, and she could see the uncertainties of that life.
“The ups and downs — that kind of thing freaks me out,” she said.
So when she started her home bakery business, Melting Bite, last October, taking orders for elaborately decorated custom cakes, it was more of a creative outlet than anything else, a mental break from her job as a software specialist at Leepfrog Technologies, Inc..
“I like the creative side of designing cakes,” she said. “I’m more a creative person than a technical person.”
Melting Bite features signature flavors like Mango Desire — pineapple cake with mango frosting and chunks of fresh mango, topped with mango sauce — or Messed-up Monkey — marble cake with Kahlua chocolate ganache frosting. Her cakes are Indian-style, which she said means they are made with less sugar and fat than many Western-style cakes.
Her cake business quickly took off. After encouragement from customers, she decided to try a pop-up stand at NewBo City Market on two weekends in August. That went well, and the idea of a permanent stand quickly followed. Melting Bite opened with a dedicated space in the market at the beginning of September.
“In the last month, a lot of things have changed. Things are going really fast,” Chopra said.
She still is working full time, while also pursuing her MBA at the University of Iowa. Despite all of that, she said taking on a food business felt worth it.
“It’s a lot, sometimes, but I was always spending my time cooking — it’s therapy for me,” she said.
Along with desserts, her NewBo stand will offer savory Indian food, focusing on the fare one might find at street food stalls. She will just have baked goods this weekend, with the full menu coming soon.
Other Indian restaurants in the area offer full, traditional sit-down meals, and she said she wanted to serve something different.
“Anywhere you go, you can get traditional things, but I always miss the actual, authentic street food of India,” she said.
Her menu is small, focused around dosas — crepes made from rice and lentils; paratha kathi rolls — flatbreads stuffed with different fillings like chicken kebab or vegetables and paneer; and uttapams — batter cooked with different fillings, all served with a variety of sauces. She plans to add chicken curry and chicken tikka masala to the menu as well, along with chaat — Indian savory snacks like samosas and fried chickpeas, served with sauces and vegetables. Her desserts include cake by the slice, cupcakes and mousse. She hopes to add kulfi — Indian ice cream — in the future. If people are unfamiliar with the menu items, she encourages them to ask questions and taste samples.
“I like when people try something new. I really want people to try new things,” she said. “It stays with me when they really like it.”
For now, she doesn’t have any employees, so Melting Bite’s NewBo stand is just open on Saturdays and Sundays, but she hopes to expand that in the future to include Thursday and Fridays. The custom cake side of her business still is going strong.
Despite that, her true passion, she said, is with savory food. She and her husband, Sachin, regularly host gatherings of friends at their house, and Chopra loves cooking for the parties.
“I’ve been cooking food since I was 12 ... I enjoy making food,” she said.
She recalled growing up in New Delhi, where her mother made their family’s breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, and Chopra was often enlisted to help.
“She used to make me cut pounds of onions,” Chopra said. “She is a great cook, and I learned from her.”
Her mother always had home-cooked food ready to serve anyone, at any time, she said, and that inspires her.
“I think I got this from my mother,” Chopra said. “I feel very happy serving people.”
If you go
• What: Melting Bite
• Where: NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
• Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
• Details: (319) 444-0477, facebook.com/meltingbitecakes
l Comments: (319) 398-8339; email@example.com