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Clay Oven Indian restaurant to move to takeout and delivery-only space after 36 years

Geeta Bansal's spicy habanero lamb vindaloo at Clay Oven restaurant in Irvine.
Geeta Bansal’s spicy habanero lamb vindaloo, a favorite at her Clay Oven restaurant in Irvine. The restaurant is closing and moving locations in December.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

After 36 years, Clay Oven, the Irvine restaurant that introduced modern Indian cuisine to Orange County, is moving. The restaurant, run by chef-owner Geeta Bansal and her husband, Praveen, will relocate to a commercial kitchen in Costa Mesa on Dec. 1.

The last day of cooking in the Irvine location will be Thanksgiving. Geeta Bansal will offer both takeout and delivery from the new space, beginning in December.

Bansal says she made the decision to move after her landlord informed her that her rent would increase if she renewed her lease, which is up at the end of the month.

“We moved to Irvine initially because it’s a very diverse, accepting community,” Bansal said. “We are an independent restaurant. We don’t have investors.”

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Despite securing the commercial kitchen space, Bansal says that she and her husband are still looking for a new permanent location for the restaurant but that they don’t anticipate opening for an additional three to four months.

“We are in the process of negotiating for our new home,” she said. “The restaurant is home for us.”

Clay Oven closed in March after shutdowns were mandated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant began offering takeout and delivery shortly after. Bansal says she has been paying full rent since the shutdown. Unlike in Los Angeles, Orange County does not have a fee cap for delivery companies, and Bansal says she pays 25% or more in fees to delivery companies.

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“It’s not the space that makes us, it’s our passion and the food we do,” she said. “We are going to maintain that.”

Bansal is optimistic about the restaurant’s future but says leaving the location after so many years, and after so many memories, is “painful.” This is where she hosted everyone from the Grateful Dead to astronauts to Robert Englund over the years.

“It’s been a good run, and it will carry on,” she said.

350 Clinton St., Suite A, Costa Mesa, (949) 552-2851, clayovenirvine.com


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