The Best Indian Food in Chicago May Not be Where You'd Think

The Best Indian Food in Chicago May Not be Where You'd Think

So I'm not a Desi, but I did live in Delhi for two and half years, and have visited many regions of India on at least five different trips since 1999. Chicago is a great place to get homesick if Indian food is the fix (and for me, it is). Everyone knows Devon is where you go if you want to feel like you turned the corner and were transported to India. I love it. The samosas, the dosas, the prices, the pressure cookers, the tea, the international groceries, the saris, and the families going out to dinner around 8 or 9:00 p.m. There are some good places here, especially for South Indian food. Udupi Palace Restaurant is one favorite. There are great Pakistani places such as Khan BBQ, which is similar to the North Indian food of Delhi. Give me some tandoori chicken, seekh kabobs, saag paneer, and fresh roti or naan, and I am a pretty happy girl. My real weakness is for Delhi or Punjabi food, dal makhani to be specific. Dal makhani is a black lentil and rasma (pinto bean) stew seasoned with garam masala and other exotic secret ingredients. I only tried to make it once because it took all day. Only a few places in Chicago make it, and you have to pay a pretty penny for it, but it is worth it.

Uptown: Marigold Restaurant

Marigold Restaurant is a very chic and beautiful place with great food. The Marigold Platter gets you a taste of everything delicious.

 River North: Vermilion

Very classy, Latin-Indian fusion, but I stick to the Dhaba section of the menu because it is amazing. We usually wait for a Groupon and/or special occasion because this place is pricey. It is a beautiful place.

Wicker Park: Cumin

Decently priced, warm atmosphere, great North Indian and Napali food. Three of us shared the Monsoon Wedding non-vegetarian platter and it was more than enough food. The lamb curry melted in your mouth and the dal makhani was addictive. Reservations are a good idea on the weekend. The paratha was delicious, and you will only love naan until you try a paratha (a pan-fried, wheat-flour flat bread).

Lincoln Park: Raj Darbar 

I finally found it, dal makhani within walking distance of my house. It is very tasty, ask for recommendations, do not get the chicken tikka masala, and try specialties. This place is less greasy, using healthier, modern recipes. There is a beer and wine bar with only a $7 corkage fee. Also, these guys are often on Groupon-Now, so get your discount if you are eating in. The people of Raj Darbar reminded me so much of Delhi that I forgot my usually paralyzing fear of trying to speak Hindi and chatted it up with our server.

An honorable mention also must go to Lincoln Park's Hema's Kitchen. It is BYOB, always packed, the parathas are good, and the chicken tikka masala is tasty as well. Some dishes are greasy, but I am not saying it is not authentic. Being a Hyderabadi Restaurant, you get some of the benefits of south Indian food (nice biryani), and some of the benefits of the north (Muslim) influence (great breads).

After all of that, it is clear that you do not have to go all the way up to Devon to get some great Indian food, but for fresh spices, nothing else beats it.


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