By Chris Bavender
It was love that brought Keith Dusko to Westfield, but it was the sense of community and the family friendly atmosphere that helped in the decision to call it home. That, and Chiba Indy, his Park Street sushi restaurant that opened in April. It’s Dusko’s second Chiba location – the first opened in 2011 in New Orleans.
“I knew that if I moved here it would be tough to go back and work for someone and I saw an opportunity here,” said the 46-year-old Dusko.
Dusko and wife, Nicole, met through the racing world. She came to Louisiana through her then work for Andretti Autosports (she currently works for LST Marketing). At the time, Dusko was racing Le Mans style open cockpit race cars.
“It was a business situation that turned into a dating situation,” he said. “She was transferred back to Zionsville and we were doing long distance and I proposed a year later.”
On date nights, the couple would Uber to Mass Avenue or Broad Ripple. By the time the cost of a babysitter was factored in on top of the night out, they were “racking up the fees.”
“After a couple of those nights I said there has to be something close to home and the question kept coming up ‘Where does everyone eat?”’ he said. “I felt there was an opportunity to improve the scene a bit. I went to Rail (another Westfield restaurant) and was impressed with what they were doing.”
Dusko grew up in the restaurant business. At 15 he washed dishes at a bar in Red Bank, NJ where he grew up. One day, he found a large amount of cash on the floor and took it to the owner – who promptly promoted him to busboy. Over the years he did it all – from bartender to server to prep cook. He “fell” into the sushi business in the late 90’s with the Haru concept that was purchased by Benihana, running the bar and then taking over operations.
“They started incorporating me into their world and saw how hard I worked,” he said. “I ended up taking over and went from three restaurants to nine and it came to the point we were making so much money I thought I should do it on my own.”
That led to his first Chiba restaurant in New Orleans. The name Chiba is in honor of Dusko’s executive head chef in New York whose family is from the commercial fishing town south of Tokyo.
“I have been a sushi lover all my life but I would not be here without him and out of respect to him and his family I named it after his hometown,” Dusko said.
Dusko knew the Park Street location was the perfect location as soon as he walked in and could “feel the soul” of the building.
“For me to me to put something in a center is not my style,” he said. “In New Orleans we are in a 130-year-old building and it is very similar here. It just felt right.”
Friends and Family
Chiba Indy is actually two tandem houses – one for the restaurant and one for the bar. Renovations – which took about year – included taking the walls down to the studs and taking the 8-foot ceilings to the roof line while keeping the integrity of the building.
From the outside, Chiba Indy looks like an old farmhouse but inside is a state of the art, contemporary facility. Soft gray walls complement the black bamboo floors and art by New Orleans artist Frenchy adds pops of color throughout the restaurant. A beautiful outdoor space leads to the bar and adjacent dining with a stage for live music.
While sushi is the main fare, Chiba Indy also offers an extensive hot food menu from chicken and steak to short ribs and duck. Fresh fish is flown in daily from southern California and Hawaii.
While Chiba Indy has been open less than a year, Dusko already is looking forward with plans for a third Chiba location in Sheridan toward the end of 2018 and a fourth in Hawaii – where he hopes to retire.
“I am a risk taker and I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit since I was10 and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great people who’ve helped me achieve my goals,” he said. “The reception from the community here has just been absolutely unreal. The way I look at it, we are feeding friends and family - guests who come in to our home.”