Earlier this month, Long Room, the much-loved bar on Irving Park Road, reopened for on-site service for the first time since 2020. The bar had been selling to-go cocktails and more recently allowed customers to reserve space in its small back patio. But with restaurant and tavern owners scrambling to fill shifts this summer, owners weren’t sure how to provide late-night food for their customers.
One name that popped up was Sahil Singh, a Chicago restaurant vet who cooks at Superkhana International. Singh’s worked at Mindy’s HotChocolate and Veerasway, a beloved Indian restaurant that closed years ago along Randolph Street. He’s also helped to grow Naansense, the fast-casual chain in downtown and West Loop.
Starting on Friday, July 16, Singh will sling samosas, fried chicken tikka tenders, and smash burgers with curry mayo. Tuck Shop will initially serve Long Room customers on Fridays and Saturdays through mid-August, but Singh wants to see that expand to Thursdays with the hope of extending the pop-up beyond August. Singh is teaming up with Naansense general manager Kevin O’Connor on the Tuck Shop.
Tuck Shop is based on Singh’s experiences growing up in India where he attended boarding school in the city of Pune, which is about 90 miles from Mumbai (where his family lives). Boarding schools have these shops that pop up weekly selling snacks like vada and chicken kathi rolls. These snacks appeal to an international crowd as Singh says he remembers attending school with students from other parts of Asia and Africa.
Singh knows Long Room’s clientele. Before Superkhana opened in 2019, owners Zeeshan Shah and Yoshi Yamada held a series of pop-ups called Bombay Breakdown inside the bar and Singh helped the duo. Shah has also started a solo project, the Biscuit Man, out of Long Room, where he sold fried chicken biscuits and more. Analia Beltran-Lang, who co-owns the operation, reached out to Singh. Biscuit Man remains at the Long Room for morning and afternoon service. For Singh, the Long Room situation presented an opportunity. Singh had been furloughed by Superkhana during the pandemic and was looking for work.
While customers will draw comparisons with Bombay Breakdown and Tuck Shop, Singh is taking a different approach: He’s going Anglo Indian, a genre the emerged during Britain’s subjugation of India. The food was meant to appease British officials living in India under colonial rule. Pub Royale in Wicker Park, with items like salt cod samosas, takes a similar approach. Singh is also taking notes from his childhood and meshing it with the creative food he made in the West Loop while at the short-lived Tikkawala, his restaurant that closed in 2018.
Late-night service has been tricky to navigate thanks to the worker (or wage) shortage. The other thing to keep in mind are consumer habits. After a year of Zoom happy hours and stocking up home bars, some customers are reluctant in staying out past 11 p.m. Long Room had its morning and afternoon service covered thanks to the Biscuit Man, but evening was a problem. For bars, food service became a requisite during the pandemic. The city of Chicago, at one point, required bars to either offer food or to partner with a food truck or caterer if they wanted to serve on-site customers during the height of COVID-19. That requirement was later relaxed where a bar could have menus from a nearby restaurant on hand to encourage carryout and delivery.
Superkhana brass has been supportive of Singh’s move, and the chef may return to the restaurant later this year. But for now, the focus is trying something new at Tuck Shop which debuts tonight.
Read the full menu below.
Tuck Shop, inside the Long Room, 1612 W. Irving Park Road, open from 4:30 p.m. to close Friday and Saturdays through mid-August.