Many chefs, including Rick Bayless, have opened fast-casual restaurants to complement their fine dining establishments. Tikkawala, a new Indian restaurant, straddles both under one roof with fried chicken sandwiches for lunch and masala oysters at night. The restaurant comes from chefs Sahil Singh and Hiran Patel, two vets who worked at Veerasway, a shuttered West Loop fine dining Indian restaurant that was ahead of its time on Randolph Street.
After Veerasway‘s shutter, Patel dove into the world of fast-casual restaurants at Naansense, which sells assembly-line Indian kati rolls and bowls in the Loop and West Loop. But the two chefs yearned for something more. Patel, in January, announced plans for a pop-up where he and Singh would explore modern Indian food. Those plans fizzled but evolved into the idea for Tikkawala.
The West Loop sports a growing South Asian population who are looking for convenient options. Tikkawala is also located near Whitney Young Magnet High School, so there’s a need to feed hungry teens at lunch. Singh, Patel, and business partner Darshan Desai, hope to give them an alternative for a greasy beef burger. They’ll serve ground chicken seekh burgers, samosas, and more for lunch. Much of the menu features charcoal-grilled food, and the chefs are trying to subvert stereotypes. No, the food doesn’t have a ton of heat, and it’s not full of cilantro and tamarind. It’s familiar, accessible, and not loaded with ghee. The lunch menu debuted on Tuesday and tonight’s the first night of dinner service. It’s not the Punjabi-style North Indian food many Americans know from a buffet, nor is it the South Indian vegetarian food that’s attempting to break through the mainstream (hello, dosa). It’s Indian-style elotes, shishito peppers, and eventually they’ll unveil a beef dish. Fret not vegans and vegetarians, there’s plenty to eat here.
For Singh and Patel, the main attraction will be dinner. Prawns, mussels, and oysters are on the menu. Some may feel oysters don’t belong in an Indian restaurant: “This Indian does,” Patel said.
Singh recently worked at the Alinea Group’s Roister on Fulton Market and picked up tips on chef Andrew Brochu’s all-world fried chicken sandwich. He said he applied a few of those principles in creating Tikkawala’s version.
Once they get the restaurant off the ground, Patel said he wants to open the space up at night for special tasting menus. This will allow the two chefs to stretch their legs and showcase their talents, something they’ve been craving to do for years.
Stroll through the restaurant below and check out the lunch and dinner menus. Tikkawala’s first dinner is tonight.
Tikkawala, 1258 W. Jackson Boulevard, (312) 455-1258, open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner on Monday though Thursday; until 10 p.m. on Friday; open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday for dinner.