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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 two years straight. For an upscale experience, ROOH Chicago tantalizes with jackfruit kofta as well as whole seabass. Vajra hits all the right sitar notes with small plates, classics, tandooris, vegetarian and vegan plates. Indian food fans are looking forward to the opening of Logan Square's Superkhana International where James Beard Award nominee Jason Hamme will work his magic. For something casual, hit up Logan Square's Chiya Chai or stroll Devon Avenue, in the West Rogers Park neighborhood. It's home to a mile-long stretch known as "Little India," (Tiffin is a reliable choice) and is also an international melting pot of Asian, Russian, Pakistani, and Orthodox Jewish residents also offering their own flavorful treats. 


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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. Stop by on Wednesdays between 5-10 p.m. for Date Night in the Backroom.

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 formal seating for dinner.

Read more about Chiya Chai Café →


India House


Locals love that this neighborhood Indian establishment delivers oversized portions and hosts a tasty lunch buffet. The dining room, accented by subdued lighting and a dramatic color scheme, adds a touch of class. Try mainstays like tandoori chicken, fish curry, and freshly baked naan of all kinds. If you're feeling adventurous, choose something unusual from the menu's 100 items or go with one of the special dinners that include a choice of soup or salad, rice, naan, dal Makhani, and dessert. Do go for the Bombay Street Fare especially any of the chaat options and you'll get a taste of what Indians sample from the city food stalls. Several traditional desserts, as well as a decent selection of Indian beers and wines, round out the menu. In addition to the downtown location, the restaurant also has a restaurant in northwest suburban Hoffman Estates.

Recommended for Indian because: It's a solid downtown choice for Indian food that's friendly even to the timid palate plus the Indian buffet is available seven days a week.

Jacky's expert tip: India House delivers to nearby hotels if you'd rather dive into your Masala in private.

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When you don't want or can't afford a banquet fit for a maharaja, head to Hakka Bakka Indian Kati Rolls serving Indian street food in the West Loop and Lincoln Park. Husband and wife owners, Kaushik Guha and Swetha Jalan, missed the street food of Kolkata so they created this fast-casual concept of authentic recipes that stars a signature item - the Kati Roll, one of India's most popular street foods. It features unleavened flatbread layered with an egg and stuffed with your choice of chicken, chickpea, paneer, potato, egg, lamb or shrimp, all crowned with onions, cucumbers, cilantro, jalapenos, and mint. There are also Salad and Rice Bowls with choice of protein and veg; and sandwiches like Vegan Masala Tikki Burger and Lamb Shammi Burger. All dishes come with a choice of homemade chutneys. Want to try a lot at once? Go for a vegetarian or non-vegetarian Bento Box.

Recommended for Indian because: Hakka Bakka makes delicious, affordable, Indian street food with fresh ingredients from authentic recipes for a taste of India's diverse flavors.

Jacky's expert tip: The West Loop location, near Restaurant Row, offers late-night dining on Friday and Saturday nights until 2 a.m.

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This elegant restaurant specializes in Northern Indian cuisine and is known for its tandoori cooking. Clay ovens powered by mesquite wood bake not only bread but fish, chicken, and lamb to perfection. The unobtrusive, attentive staff and tasteful interior create an upscale dining experience. A lunch buffet adds value, and the long list of special Indian bread cooked in clay ovens will knock you off your Keto diet deliciously. Then again, so will the dosai, thin crepes stuffed with various veg, and fragrant biriyani, savory rice dishes. Try unique items like crisp Bhindi Amchur (fried okra with a hint of dried mango powder leaf) or Orange Kulfi, ice cream made in-house with the pulp of oranges mixed with pistachios and cream and frozen into a creamy delicacy. If you're in the suburbs by Woodfield Mall, stop in the Schaumburg location, which is a just a block from the mall.

Recommended for Indian because: Chicago's longest-running fine dining Indian restaurant is a longtime favorite among Indian food fans and is conveniently located near many hotels.

Jacky's expert tip: Gaylord offers an appealing $14.95 lunch buffet as well as an extensive menu for vegans.

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Another inexpensive cuisine puts on the ritz. The second outpost of the San Francisco Bay area's urban, Indian-inspired restaurant lands in the West Loop in spring of 2019. Chicken tikka? Inexpensive saag paneer? This is not that place. ROOH calls itself a "progressive Indian restaurant" offering upscale food of the subcontinent by way of well-heeled Americans so your curry may star pork or beef short ribs and seekh kebab will feature cream cheese and duck. And there's Old Delhi Fried Chicken. Expect a lot of flavors emanating from even small plates (case in point - tandoori octopus sporting everything from compressed apple to cucumber gel). Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar promises to combine India's regional flavors with the use of local Chicago ingredients. Cocktails will tantalize West Loop crowds with a "philosophy" of new world cocktails that are inspired by Ayurveda, using Indian ingredients, shrubs, spices and artisanal spirits.

Recommended for Indian because: The definitely upscale ROOH combines India's traditional and regional flavors with local Chicago ingredients.

Jacky's expert tip: Try at least one of the 12 seasonal cocktails based on Ayurveda's six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter.

Read more about ROOH Chicago →




You can get North and South Indian dishes like Madras curry, samosas, tandoori chicken, lamb. seafood and veg plus and naan at Chicago Curry House but also the best of Nepalese cuisine: momo dumplings, dal-Bhat (rice and lentils) and gundruk (fermented, dried vegetables). There are a half-dozen of completely vegan Nepalese entrees and carnivores can go crazy with lamb and goat meat dishes. The lunch buffet looks as good as it tastes (and has gluten-free and vegetarian items) and Chicago Curry House does a brisk take-out and delivery business. Cold Kheer, rice cooked with sweetened milk, raisins and almonds makes a nice finish. There's also a Devon Ave. location.

Recommended for Indian because: Chicago Curry House provides a delightful alternative to South Loop dining especially with its differently spiced Nepalese selections.

Jacky's expert tip: Be sure you indicate your spice level preference or you may be either blown away or unsatisfied.

Read more about Chicago Curry House Restaurant →


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West Town


Offering upscale and interesting turns on Indian and Nepalese food, Vajra entertains your adventurous side with Himalayan Grilled Chicken, Heritage Goat and Tandoori Venison, among the many out-of-the-ordinary choices. 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. Although beer always complements Indian food, cocktails (and mocktails) are inventive: The Snapdragon Alabaster combines Absolut Elyx Vodka. Sweet Lassi. Ginger Liqueur and Rosewater transporting you to a bar in the clouds of Mt. Everest. Murals of Nepalese art and very accommodating staff add to the pleasant dining experience.

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.

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Ukranian Village


This modern British-Indian pub is a Chicago standout, thanks to an inspired beer and drink selection, Indian menu and unconventional decor reflecting Indian pop culture. It's first-come, first-serve seating, so you might have to stand for your first drink or two but there's a wide range of beer and cider choices (there are also 4-oz. tasting portions); a rotation of seasonal Royale Cups.; and large format cocktails serving two-to-three sippers. You'll need a drink to complement the some of the spicy menu items that include classics like Butter Chicken and Lamb Kofta and cheeky fusion like Indian Hot Chicken Wings and Chicken Tikka Kati Roll. There's even a "Royale with Cheese" for Tarantino fans.

Recommended for Indian because: The bohemian decor, terrific bar, Indian classics as well as modern riffs on the cuisine make Pub Royale a must-visit in Wicker Park.

Jacky's expert tip: Try the frozen mango lassi, an unusual and strong cocktail made with yogurt, mango, honey and bitters, and spiked with rum, Batavia Arrack and Ancho Reyes chile liqueur.

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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 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: paratha filled with seasoned mashed potatoes, green peas and spices or naan stuffed with onion and ajwain seeds. The bar also has a nice selection of cocktails.

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: Want to sample a little bit of everything? Try the lunch buffet.

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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 in 2018 and 2019. When you want to go beyond Butter Chicken (you can order a grand charcoal-grilled, tomato gravy rendition here, too), get to Edgewater and be amazed at sublime interpretations of Indian cuisine. Choose a six-course prix fixe menu: one with meat and vegetarian dishes and the other strictly vegetarian. Lemon rasam soup with lentils and veg is sumptuous yet light and spoon lamb flavored with cumin and coriander is a melt-in-your-mouth bite. Items change reflecting seasonality. If you're going a la carte at the "Ind-Spired Bistro," order anything with homemade paneer cheese and the slow-rise garlic naan. 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 for 2018 and 2019, 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 →


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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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