The Whip In convenience store—long known for its vast beer and wine selection and commitment to local foods—recently added another non-7-11 amenity: down-home cooking.
“If by down-home, you mean India,” says Arden Yingling, who runs the store with husband Dipak Topiwala, and if by India, you mean the Gujarat region—ancestral home of Dipak’s parents, who moved from there to Zambia and finally to Austin.
“Dipak’s mom is our consultant,” Arden says. “She’s busy translating the recipes she keeps in her head. It’s food you can’t always find at an Indian restaurant, a sort of Indian-African-American fusion—I’m thinking of a fresh corn dish she makes, sautéed with spices. And we’ll hand-roast the spices, because it makes the difference between tasty and WOW!”
“This food is intensely flavored and cooked for a long time,” Dipak adds. “The spices need time to meld, and that’s why it makes such good leftovers. It’s even better the next day.”
Much of the planned menu is vegetarian and vegan, he notes, and made with local produce and natural meats whenever possible.
Serving Indian family recipes to-go—or to eat-in at the store’s eclectic Craigslist-acquired seating—is another sign of the new management that began in 2004, when Arden and Dipak moved back to Austin after 11 years in the Bay Area. Running his parents’ store was supposed to be a stopgap measure for Dipak, who spent his teen years helping out there and had since moved on to jobs in nonprofit administration and the wine business. But the elder Topiwalas were anxious to spend time with their grandchildren, and Dipak began to enjoy his role as shopkeeper/visionary…or, as he puts it, “Whip In Wallah.”
These days, saris and Indian tapestries line the walls, and classical Indian music and Nag Champa incense fill the air. A piano stands ready for the occasional neighborhood musician, and Dipak plans to use the back patio to host SXSW parties next year. Beer and wine are already available by the glass, and, eventually, he hopes to have 80 beer taps.
For now, it’s certain he runs the only interstate frontage road convenience store equipped with a tandoor cranking out naan bread—and not just to accompany traditional dishes, but for “naan wraps,” another Whip In fusion exclusive.
Not that there’s any lack of those—Dipak particularly likes to take credit for the store’s “Whip In-dianized” chili. “It’s made with good quality beef, black beans and black ale. You can taste the cardamom and molasses. A glass of Malbec would go great with it—what a way to have your beer and wine at the same time!”
Whip In Convenience Store
1950 S. IH 35
For more on Whip In’s hours, products and specialties, including Topiwala family recipes, see whipin.com .