A fast-casual pizza restaurant in an Eden Prairie strip mall? At first, it hardly seems like breaking news.
But when that restaurant is Pizza Karma, developed by Raghavan Iyer—the Minneapolis-based chef and author who’s written six critically acclaimed books, hosted an Emmy-winning documentary, and trained chefs across the country—it’s time to make a drive out to the suburbs.
Pizza Karma’s opening is scheduled for Monday, December 17. Here’s the scoop.
1. It’s not an Indian pizza place. Or an Indian restaurant.
Given that each pizza starts with naan crust, it’s natural to think of Pizza Karma as an Indian pizza concept. Iyer is quick to dispel that notion. “[People] want to think we are Indian pizzas,” he says. “But karma is a global word. It encompasses the world.”
And Pizza Karma’s six signature pies are meant to showcase that global nature. “I wanted to shake up the pizza world a little bit—I wanted to pull ingredients, techniques, spices, and herbs from around the world,” Iyer continues. For example, one pairs pulled pork flavored with Mexican chiles with a mustard green and spinach sauce and buffalo mozzarella. Another features lamb meatballs spiced with cardamom in a nod to Scandinavian baking traditions. A vegan option layers North African harissa sauce, potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and mango powder on top of a potato-chile naan.
You can also build your own, with four types of naan, four sauces, and nearly 20 toppings to choose from. There’s a nice range of clearly marked vegetarian and vegan menu items, as well as a gluten-free crust option.
2. It’s all about the tandoor
One of the first things diners will notice is Pizza Karma’s three tandoor ovens, where Naan pizza crusts are cooked on the clay-lined walls before being topped and finished in a pizza oven.
While a tandoor might not be a typical fixture in a pizza place, Iyer explains that in much of the world, rustic-style clay ovens are used to cook. “My thought [with this restaurant] is a) everyone loves fresh bread and b) everyone loves pizza. This kind of cooking is very prevalent globally—how do you bring it to the Midwest? With pizza!”
“The style of cooking pizza is what defines it,” he continues. “Wood-fired at Pizzeria Lola, coal-fired at Black Sheep. For us, it’s clay ovens. What defines us is the tandoor.”
3. Don’t overlook the appetizers
While pizza is the main event, there’s a well-rounded menu of starters, too. Toppings like lamb meatballs, chicken kebabs, and coconut shrimp make a guest appearance on the app menu, served with a side of naan (which you’ll need for soaking up every last bit of sauce). We could’ve eaten a whole plate of the crisp okra fries, seasoned with a gentle dusting of cayenne.
4. Karma isn’t just a buzzword
The “karma” in the restaurant’s name is taken seriously. A portion of restaurant proceeds will be donated to local charities. There are no trash bins: Beer glasses are recycled, and all other dinnerware and food waste are composted.
In order to “spread good karma, not germs” there’s an automatic hand washing station next to the pop dispenser. It’s kind of like a hand-sized car wash, and makes perfect sense given that most of us eat pizza with our fingers. And if you’re not eating your fingers, you should be—“Eating with silverware is like making love through an interpreter,” says Iyer.
5. Embrace the unexpected
Although the ingredients and techniques hail from across the globe, Pizza Karma’s menu has an elegant cohesion. “This is about the complete experience of the pizza,” explains Iyer. “Don’t just taste one component—be true to the dish as a whole. What I’m doing with these pizzas is balancing taste, aroma, and texture.”
We particularly enjoyed the paneer pizza, with firm pieces of spiced paneer, a tomato fenugreek sauce enriched with clarified butter, and a finishing flourish of crisp fresh peppers. Another standout pie was the coconut shrimp, which looked unwieldy on paper but was delightful in reality—somehow both bright and understated, the sort of dish that keeps you coming back for bite after bite.
“The ingredient combinations have an element of ‘wow’ that surprises people,” says Iyer. “That’s what brings me joy.”
8451 Joiner Way, Eden Prairie