Castleton Goes International Via Saraga


and immigrants hoping to get their hands on the ingredients for a cherished family recipe have long turned to Saraga International Grocery to complete their shopping lists. Now, they’ve got another 100,000 square feet to explore as they fill their larders with everything from curry leaves and green coconuts to fish sauce and French mustard, halal goat and beef, and whole amber jack and snapper from one of the state’s most expansive seafood counters. That’s because the longtime global retailer, which already has locations on Commercial Drive in Indy’s Lafayette Square neighborhood, in Greenwood, and in Columbus, Ohio, opened its most impressive store to date just two days before Christmas in the Target location on Center Run Drive in Castleton that shut its doors in 2015.

But the expansive culinary paradise with even more Asian and European selections and a food court featuring everything from Korean corndogs to sushi and Mexican food didn’t open overnight. The official announcement that the grocer would be expanding near Castleton Mall came in early 2019, yet pandemic delays and other construction snags kept curious fans asking, “Is the new Saraga open?” on social media for months. In the meanwhile, smoke and water damage from a fire in late 2021 closed the Westside location for several weeks, leaving many without their go-to source for hard-to-find spices and sauces. That store reopened in late February, refurbished and refreshed, while signage at the Castleton location hinted that it would be open any day.

Thankfully, the wait has been well worth it, as throngs of happy customers have attested to over the last three weeks. And while the new store includes Saraga’s signature produce section with fruits, veggies, greens, and herbs from nearly every continent, as well as a full-service seafood department with live and whole fish, prawns, squid, and lobster, some new additions mean the northside store is definitely a candidate for your next culinary expedition. Certainly one of the most exciting features is Indiana’s first franchise of the Korean-based patisserie Tous les Jours, which boasts more than 1,600 stores worldwide but just over 70 locations in the United States. Golden loaves of milk bread, brioche buns, croissants, and sweet and savory pastries are just some of the dozens of offerings from glass cases, with coffee drinks and tea available at the counter.

Among other ready-to-eat options are the TikTok-worthy Korean corndogs from Korn’s, which features classic dogs along with street food stall potato dogs, speckled with crispy fried potato cubes, spicy dogs, and ramen dogs with a coating of crunchy ramen noodles. More traditional Korean eats are available at So Gong Dong Tofu & BBQ, a small regional Korean chain that offers hearty Asian-style barbecue platters, as well as snacks such as a tasty Korean seafood pancake and vegetable spring rolls. Sushi Don promises signature maki rolls and grab-and-go offerings in the gradually opening food court, and El Chavo will provide tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tortas, as well as their signature “Volcan,” which the food stand’s website describes as “an eruption of melted Chihuahua cheese over grilled steak on a crispy-fried tortilla.”

While the retailer may seem a recent phenomenon in Indy’s expanding international food scene, its roots go back to the 1980s, when two brothers and natives of Seoul, South Korea, John and Bong Sung, first moved to Indiana and later operated a retail produce truck in the early 1990s. A small store in Bloomington soon followed, which the brothers have since closed, but it wasn’t until the Sungs opened the store in Indy’s burgeoning International Marketplace on the near west side in a former Super Kmart in 2005 that the Saraga quickly became synonymous with global eats, with home cooks from every part of the world pouring in to get rarely seen products. For nearly two decades now, the answer to the online questions “Who has cassava flour?” or “Who has banana leaves?” has almost always been “Saraga.”

And though the opening of the new store has brought with it some flash and fanfare, including plenty of Instagram photo ops in the food court and a raffle for a Tesla 3, which customers can enter for every purchase of over $50, the Sungs’s original guiding principle of providing those far from their native countries a flavor of home still holds true. No longer are pomegranate molasses, bird’s eye chilis, and gochujang mere curiosities but staples that many local home chefs keep in their kitchens and have tasted on their travels and at nearby restaurants alike. Much of that is due to the Sungs’s vision and business savvy to open in somewhat risky retail spots. And while their small grocery chain has had its ups and downs, the new store is an emblem of just how much Saraga has made Indianapolis a more diverse and certainly tastier place. 8448 Center Run Dr., 317-883-9999,