Sunday’s Bears playoff defeat doesn’t mean the NFL is irrelevant for Chicagoans. As holiday takeout orders have become a lifeline during a pandemic which has wiped out on-premise customers, Super Bowl Sunday provides a big event to plan around. And that’s led to a new project from Rooh, the upscale Indian restaurant along Randolph Restaurant Row.
Ordering is live, as on Super Bowl Sunday — February 7 — Rooh will launch a virtual restaurant from its West Loop location. It’s called Butter Chicken Shack and will feature masala chicken wings, Kerala chicken nuggets, lamb keema nachos, and butter chicken puffs.
“Oh my god, that’s my last meal before I die — those nachos,” says Rina Mallick. She owns Rooh with husband Manish and says watching football at a bar was the couple’s ideal date night. That’s how this new spinoff developed.
Outdoor dining is keeping Rooh alive with the dining room closed during the pandemic, but the Mallicks say they needed more casual fare at a lower price point so the restaurant could attract more repeat customers. Rooh seems to thrive on holidays and for customers celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. Butter Chicken Shack gives them a potential new revenue stream while allowing Rooh to continue to operate separately. The space has two kitchens on different floors so they have the space.
And while the food is more casual, Rooh chef Sujan Sarkar — he opened Rooh San Francisco in 2016 — warned the Mallicks that he wanted to ensure a high level of quality (“He won’t cut corners,” Rina Mallick says). Sarkar has cooked internationally, and pledged to make sure Butter Chicken Shack uses fresh (not frozen) meats, and to nail the little things. They’re using a proprietary spice blend, and the sauces are made in the kitchen.
“We wanted to keep Rooh what it is,” Manish Mallick says.
The menu also includes fried chicken, both dry-rubbed and sauced wings, and a roasted chicken that’s marinated with cream, ginger, garlic, chili, and the aforementioned secret spices. The butter chicken puff is another item of note. This isn’t like the butter chicken calzone served at Superkhana International in Logan Square. This is inspired by the flaky, puff pastries served at Indian bakeries filled with chopped meats like mutton. Also, as Indo-Chinese food gains popularity in the Western world, they’ll offer the Calcutta-style spring roll stuffed with chili chicken. Rina Mallick notes India’s first Chinese settlers arrived in the port city of Kolkata in the 1700s. They made use of the ingredients available in India to create a style of Chinese food that pandered to locals.
The Mallicks hope Butter Chicken Shack can find an audience. Manish Mallick says others have tried to mix American comfort food with Indian flavors, but haven’t executed. He sees potential to open dedicated locations across the country. But right now, he and his wife are hoping to find a new revenue stream during a pandemic which has wreaked havoc with the restaurant industry.
In another touch, Butter Chicken Shack is offering beer from Azadi Brewing Company, a brewery that debuted in November inside Pilot Project Brewing in Logan Square. This Indian-inspired beer uses spices like cardamom and mango. There’s also a chai stout.
Online ordering has already started, so reserve those game day packages for Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a big day even if the Bears aren’t present for the 14th-straight year.
Butter Chicken Shack, at Rooh, 736 W. Randolph Street, available for ordering via Tock for pick or delivery via DoorDash.