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Best Indian Restaurants in Chicago

Where to find authentic, awesome Indian food in Chicago


Indian cooks have been doing wonderful things with cauliflower eons before Green Giant was ricing and mashing the stuff. Americans have embraced the legumes, beans, grains and vegetables of Indian cuisine that are flavored with turmeric, ginger, garlic and chilies touting medicinal properties. Although you can have your fill of chicken, meat and fish at any of our choices, Indian sauces and spices make a meatless Monday a treat. Small plates? Indulge in deeply flavored appetizers like samosas stuffed with vegetables or meat, okra or onion fritters paired with a cold beer.  Consider chaat, the most popular street food in Delhi. Chaat comes from the word chatna, which means licking your fingers and you'll do just that after tasting the sweet, spicy, sour and crunchy elements. When we're in the mood for Indian food in Chicago, we head to Edgewater's Mango Pickle, which earned the Michelin Bib Gourmand designation four years straight. For an upscale experience, ROOH Chicago tantalizes with jackfruit kofta as well as whole seabass and the new Progressive Indian Indienne is as fine as fine dining one can get. Vajra hits all the right sitar notes with small plates, classics, tandooris, vegetarian and vegan plates. Until you can travel to India's sunny southwest coast of Goa, the River North gastropub, Bar Goa, makes a tasty and fun Midwestern stand-in.  For something casual, hit up  Chiya Chai in the Loop or Logan Square or Moti Modern Indian in River North. 


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Moti is a pizza place, fast casual spot for lunch or dinner and Halal and vegan friendly late into the River North night. Options are numerous: build a wrap, tacos or bowl with a base (rice or salad); protein like chicken, paneer or chickpea; add a creamy tikka or spicy vindaloo gravy; then go all out with toppings and any of seven sauces. Make it easy by ordering a biryani or tikka masala entree or a chicken or paneer tikka pizza. Street snacks include popular baked Moti fries, samosas, sweet chili momos and zesty sliders. Pair a steamy cup of masala chai with sweet Moti cakes adorned with everything from fresh berries and Nutella to caramel and M & M's.

Recommended for Indian because: Moti is a fast casual spot for flavorful Indian-inspired pizza, bowls, wraps, entrees and snacks.

Jacky's expert tip: Moti is open until 2am Friday and Saturday for late night noshing.

Read more about Moti Modern Indian Kitchen →




A taste of Cumin's Indian and Himalayan food may coax you into a trek to Everest. Or at least to Wicker Park. Culinarily adventurous American diners and Indians. come for classic Indian dishes, like various curries and tandoori, Chicken Tikka Masala and lamb kabobs. The large menu also features milder and dairy-free Nepalese dishes - try appetizers like Chicken Momo (steamed dumplings with seasoned fillings) and Chhoela (marinated chicken diced and cooked in Tandoor with Nepalese spices). Then come back and go for a goat dish. Regulars rave about the Biryanis (fragrant basmati rice cooked in Indian spices mixed with vegetables, meat or seafood) and no trip to India's cuisine is complete without a couple of bread selections: paratha filled with seasoned mashed potatoes, green peas and spices or naan stuffed with onion and ajwain seeds.

Recommended for Indian because: Find authentic Indian and Nepalese food at Cumin in Wicker Park, a modern eatery that has been Bib Gourmand awarded for nine years straight.

Jacky's expert tip: There's a full bar with Indian brews like Taj Mahal and Flying Horse as well as wine, signature cocktails and spirits.

Read more about Cumin →




The Indian/Nepalese restaurant boasts one of the most extensive chai programs in the country with over 150 different combinations ranging from traditional masala to flavors like dark chocolate spearmint. But it's not all about tea at Chiya Chai. Choose among flaky savory pies stuffed with local free-range curried chicken; spicy minced Iowa pork; or kale and potato all with exotic spices. Fat dumplings embedded with lamb and dill; ground prairie bison, onions, ginger, garlic, and scallions; or all veg. There are curries from the incendiary pork Vindaloo to classic cauliflower curry with russet potatoes, green peas, tomatoes and spices. If you're in the mood for just a refreshing cocktail and snack - opt for samosa, hot curry wings or masala curry fries. Larger appetites will find Slow-cooked Bone-in Goat Curry, Deep Dish Lamb or Madras Salmon satisfying. Check out the Loop location, too, at 79 E. Madison St.

Recommended for Indian because: In the heart of Logan Square, Chiya Chai offers delicious Indian/Nepalese food and one of the most expansive chai programs in the country.

Jacky's expert tip: The café is casual, order at the counter and feel free to linger or work with outlets near the tables. The vibrantly decorated backroom offers additional seating.

Read more about Chiya Chai Café →


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7
West Town


Offering upscale and interesting turns on Indian and Nepalese food, Vajra entertains your adventurous side with Lamb Tellicherry Pepper Fry, Pahari Goat Curry and Jackfruit Biryani, among the many out-of-the-ordinary choices. There are also superb renditions of the classics, too, from Tandoori Chicken to Saag Paneer. Naan is usually a support for sauces and bits of veg and meat but Vajra's Gruyere cheese naan is a delight to devour on its own. Seasoning tends to be mild, so if you want to sweat be sure to ask for a heavier hand. For the time being, Vajra is offering pick up, delivery, catering and private events but check the website for when in-house dining kicks in again. Chef Min B. Thapa earned his ninth Michelin Bib Gourmand - this time for Vajra in 2021.

Recommended for Indian because: Vajra offers interesting riffs on the cuisine of India and Nepal while doing justice to the classics.

Jacky's expert tip: There's metered parking on Chicago Ave. but give the side streets a whirl for free spots.

Read more about Vajra →




Serving Nepali and North Indian food since 2003, Himalayan Restaurant in the South Loop and Niles, practically introduced momos to the Midwest. Vivek Kunwar, founder and CEO of Himalayan Momo and both restaurants immigrated to the U.S. from Kathmandu, Nepal in 1993. Due to growing popularity, Kunwar began selling his Momos (frozen) in 2020 and today they can be found in 3,000 stores across the country allowing you to dive into your momos in private. But why not try them hot from one of the Himalayan Restaurants' kitchens? Vegans have plenty from which to choose from Jeera Aloo:(potatoes cooked with sautéed cumin seed and spices) to Kathmandu Daal. There are entrees starring chicken, lamb, goat, paneer, seafood and vegetables plus grills and kabobs, naans, rice and rotis. Sip Indian soft drinks, fruit lassi and juices.

Recommended for Indian because: Himalayan Restaurant is the momo mecca of the city and an extensive array of Indian and Nepali cuisine.

Jacky's expert tip: Choose Himalayan Express Lunch specials at both locations and the Niles spot offers kid-friendly pizzas that are spiced but not spicy.

Read more about Himalayan Restaurant →


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Indian and Latin cuisine collide at this hip River North spot owned by Rohini Dey, founder of Let's Talk Womxn, an action movement of 700+ women restaurateurs and entrepreneurs across 14 cities. Vermilion pioneered the Indian Latin culinary marriage in 2003 and it's currently showcasing dishes from Kerala: try chili fried chicken 365, kochi lamb chops, curry leaf tamarind paneer and Tellicherry crab masala. Dey says,"Kerala is a stunning state, the spice plantations caused the Portuguese and Spanish armadas to set a-sail looking for spice - specifically "black gold. Our dishes reflect the food in Kerala's earthy "Toddy Shops" - liquor bar dives - with amazing heat and flavor redolent of coconut, curry leaves, black pepper, red chili, mustard seeds and asafetida." There are tapas like artichoke pakoras and larger plates such as the signature Lobster Portuguese. Don't miss the herbaceous Indian Latin cocktails or soulful desserts.

Recommended for Indian because: Vermilion fuses Indian and Latin food for eclectic, edgy dishes served in a beautiful, art-filled space.

Jacky's expert tip: Curate your own experience for $60 per person - an eight dish feast of any two small plates, two medium items, two accompaniments and two desserts.

Read more about Vermilion →


Dozens of dosas and a catalog of chaat? This is not that place. ROOH is a "progressive Indian restaurant" offering an upscale treatment of subcontinent food so your curry may star pork belly. Expect a ton of flavor emanating from small plates (case in point - chili cheese kulcha does naan one better by stuffing the bread with Tillamook cheddar and topping it with perky shishito peppers). Grilled prawns in a masala sauce with just the right hint of heat is a seductive small plate or there's lamb keema - the ground meat lolling in potato mousse waiting to be spooned over buttered brioche. Yes, there's Butter Chicken but go for the whole Sea Bass wrapped in a banana leaf for a memorable meal. Cocktails include Indian spices and artisanal spirits like Spice Note Cumin Tequila and local CH Distillery Vodka in the Last Hara drink.

Recommended for Indian because: A beautiful space with jewel-toned decor, hypnotic music and upscale turns on Indian fare make ROOH a must-try.

Jacky's expert tip: Ask for a window table on the second floor to add people-watching to your rendezvous.

Read more about ROOH Chicago →


3
Edgewater

Chicago native, Marisa Paolillo spent years cooking in Bombay (Mumbai), India, and her efforts resulted in Mango Pickle achieving the Michelin Bib Gourmand designation from 2018 to 2022. When you want to go beyond chicken tikka masala get to Edgewater and be amazed at sublime interpretations of Indian cuisine awaiting at Mango Pickle. Choose a five-course prix fixe menu: one with meat and vegetable dishes and the other strictly vegetarian. Yam Croquettes with curry leaf aioli are scrumptious and light and Cornish Hen Roast in corn leaf papillote with cafreal masala, polenta and Cremini is essentially autumn on a plate. Deconstructed Charlotte: poached pear in chai spice with vanilla cream is a delightful denouement. Items change reflecting seasonality. Colorful and classy decor plus an eclectic mix of Indian and American music set the scene for a satisfying, sensual trip to the Indian subcontinent.

Recommended for Indian because: Michelin Bib Gourmand from 2018 - 2022, Mango Pickle offers a sublime and unpretentious culinary trip to the Indian subcontinent.

Jacky's expert tip: Gin is the spirit of choice at Mango Pickle, so live it up with the "Flight of Fancy" gin trio served with ice and tonic on the side.

Read more about Mango Pickle →


The Indian gastropub's second year adds an expanded menu, exuberant Bollywood nights and more dishes from India's sunny southwest coast of Goa. Expect flavors from historic Indian and Portuguese cultures of Goa along with popular Indian classics like butter chicken and lamb keema. Have some house spiced peanuts and an Indian beer, whiskey or gin to start your trip to "the Ibiza of India." Butter chicken croquettes are a fine pastiche of a classic into a bite size appetizer. The word "refreshing" crosses all lips choosing the Ahi tuna and watermelon starter. Since Goa is home to Indian seafood dishes, Chef Sahil Sethi interprets Goan Fish Curry as a fresh whole sea bass wrapped in banana leaf served in a fiery sauce with lemon and basmati rice. Black Tiger Prawns in Recheado Sauce and Prawn & Chorizo Fried Rice are worthy contenders. Pork Vindaloo Sliders and the fried chicken sandwich keep the kitchen hopping.

Recommended for Indian because: Until you can travel to India's sunny southwest coast of Goa, this River North gastropub makes a tasty and fun Midwestern stand-in.

Jacky's expert tip: Bollywood brunch weekends, Friday and Saturday night DJ's playing House, EDM and Bollywood music plus occasional comedy shows are additional reasons to check out Bar Goa.

Read more about Bar Goa →


Another rustic cuisine puts on the ritz and in the case of Indienne, it is done with aplomb. The fine dining Indian restaurant is directed by acclaimed Chef/Partner Sujan Sarkar who couples his acuity of classic French technique with traditional Indian flavors. Whether you choose the Progressive Indian five-course tasting menu with vegetarian or non-vegetarian dishes, know that your protein and vegetables spent time over the fire of a custom-designed grill and breads exit puffy from the traditional tandoor. The tasting menu is well paced and wine pairings are insightful. Expect a seasonal a la carte menu of small and large plates, breads, sides, and dessert by mid-October, 2022. Traditionalists will appreciate superb renditions of dal (simmered for 12 hours until smooth, deep and richly flavored) as well as artful bites like a buckwheat tart with passion fruit and avocado. Try one of the sturdy cocktails that refer to locales chef has worked/lived around the globe from Mumbai to NYC. The rolling Gin & Tonic trolley is an equally fun option.

Recommended for Indian because: Indienne is your ticket to ride into a sensual, elegant, Indian culinary experience.

Jacky's expert tip: The word "Indienne" refers to a type of textile design popularized in Europe between the 17th - 19th centuries but was originally found in India.

Read more about Indienne →


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Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky

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