Samosa Shop has been a darling of the local farmers’ market and pop-up eatery scene since owner Dave Hadley launched the business in September 2020. But last December, the Indian-inspired street food concept found a new home at the kitchen inside LoDo’s Honor Farm, enabling Hadley to up his game. There, he is slinging 2,000 samosas every week along with other craveable bites, such as lamb kebab smashburgers, masala-spiced walking tacos, and Jersey-meets-Bombay disco fries.

Hadley, a Chopped champion whose Colorado resumé includes positions at the now-closed Biju’s Little Curry Shop and the Preservery, grew up in the Garden State. His mom hails from Kerala, a coastal state in South India, and his dad, who is of mixed African-Indian ancestry, is from the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. He explores the disparate yet intertwined elements of his personal background in his cuisine, which he refers to as “finding history through food.”

Samosa Shop's Dave Hadley standing cross-armed leaning against a wall.
Dave Hadley. Photo by Mitchell Peterson (@extractsdaily)

He recalls one conversation he had with Gaggan Anand, a globally renowned Indian chef under whom he once worked, at Anand’s former Michelin-starred restaurant, Gaggan, in Bangkok. Hadley says, “Gaggan told me one day, ‘Dave, you don’t cook Indian food, bro. You cook Indian American food, and that’s OK. You need to be OK with that.’”

Through his palm-sized samosas—priced at $5 apiece—Hadley demonstrates just how comfortable he is wielding his culinary history. Hadley’s OG samosa is firmly South Indian, which you can differentiate from the Punjabi/North Indian samosas at most Indian American restaurants by its wrapper. South Indian samosas, according to Hadley, use wrappers akin to those in spring rolls, while North Indian ones have a thicker wrapper closer in texture to pie crust. (Hadley points out that, despite this generalization, you’ll find multiple types of samosa in most Indian cities.)

The OG samosa’s filling, like many, includes potato, peas, and carrots and a mélange of spices which Hadley toasts to coax out their aromatic oils. Some of his techniques are less commonplace, though. For example, he boils his potatoes “to hell” and cools them uncovered on a sheet tray—a French technique which, according to Hadley, creates a softer whipped texture—and he incorporates dried apricots and currants into his filling, a nod to the samosas formerly at Biju’s that contained raisins.

A Samosa Shop samosa split open on a plate.
An OG samosa. Photo by Mitchell Peterson (@extractsdaily)

The way the samosa is folded cements the specialty’s claim to dumpling-ness (in case you needed convincing). Here’s how I see it: Canonically, dumplings are relatively small; cooked “wet,” meaning steamed or boiled rather than baked or deep-fried; and stuffed with a savory filling. Samosas might not check most of these boxes, but its folding process exemplifies what I believe to be core principles of dumplings: precision and repetition.

“I don’t think people realize the process for these smaller main items,” Hadley says, “because we don’t have machines. We don’t have little presses that are just, like, pumping little bits inside of a folding machine that you see on How It’s Made…. There’s a reason why I was serving 60 at a time when I first started, because I was the only one folding and making the samosa itself.”

Perhaps comparison can make things clearer. There’s an uncanny similarity between Indian samosas and Chinese dumplings in terms of their roles at their respective style of eateries. Most Indian or Chinese restaurants don’t have the labor or the time to make these items by hand, but because they’re so beloved—and, frankly, expected—by diners, restaurateurs risk losing out on customers by leaving them off the menu. As Hadley points out, a vast majority of Indian restaurants in Denver sell premade samosas rather than folding them in-house. While he now outsources some of that labor, which is the only way he can produce other menu items at a high volume, he still makes the fillings himself.

A beauty shot of a burger.
Samosa Shop’s lamb kebab burger. Photo by Mitchell Peterson (@extractsdaily)

Samosa Shop also offers much more than just the basic samosa. Hadley also wraps a gluten-free version with rice paper, and he maintains a separate gluten-free fryer, making it and his other gluten-free dishes safer for his customers with Celiac disease to consume. To boot, he only sources proteins that are halal, which, while not applicable to the OG samosa, makes many of his specialty samosas available to Muslim customers.

These specialty flavors are also how Hadley puts his full creativity to use. Along with his popular s’mores-inspired dessert samosa, he creates weekly rotating variations that draw from the breadth of the culinary world—think: anything from Caprese, to Cubanos, to crab rangoons. He’s also collaborated with other Colorado businesses, including RxR’s Texas Tacos & BBQ, Pit Fiend Barbecue, and Little Arthur’s Hoagies, to create some of these specials.

Beyond developing new dishes (which recently included a jerk chicken taco inspired by Hadley’s Caribbean heritage), Hadley’s main goal for this year is to get his frozen samosas into boxes to be sold at retail stores and his farmers’ market stand. He hopes to manufacture them in the U.K., where the Indian food scene is more developed compared to the U.S., so there are facilities that can mass produce items like samosas while still keeping them handmade.

In fact, seeing the state of Indian food in the U.K. has inspired Hadley to continue expanding the scope of Samosa Shop. “There are so many fast-casual, cool Indian concepts out [in London] that are doing what I’m doing,” he says, “and they’ve been doing it for 45 years…. I never had an Indian guy that I looked up to, that was like, ‘I’m gonna be like him.’ And for me, if I can do that for little kids now, or just people that come up to me and are really inspired by my story, that at the end of the day is what matters to me.”

Ethan Pan
Ethan Pan
Ethan Pan is 5280’s associate food editor, writing and editing for the print magazine and Follow his dining/cooking Instagram @ethans_pan.