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Curry with appam
Thattu is showing a different take on Indian food.
Jack X. Li/Eater Chicago

Where to Eat Indian, Pakistani, and Nepalese Food in Chicago

South Asia is the spice garden to the world

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Thattu is showing a different take on Indian food.
| Jack X. Li/Eater Chicago

The chefs and cooks representing Chicago’s South Asian community have expanded their culinary vision in recent years. Restaurants are diving into regional fare, and there are now two options for Indian tasting menus.

While the suburbs continue to see growth, and with that comes more food options, Chicago has more Indian restaurants than ever, and they’re located all across the city. Urban dwellers can find Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, and Bangladeshi food. A few Devon Street entries even have outdoor seating, a new development as the city’s South Asian hub continues to evolve. While Devon, the birthplace of Patel Brothers — America’s largest Indian grocer — holds a special place for many, the rest of the city has wonderful culinary options that shouldn’t be dismissed.

Below, find Eater Chicago’s favorite South Asian restaurants.

For updated information on coronavirus cases, please visit the city of Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard. Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may still pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Sabri Nihari Restaurant

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A former Michelin Bib Gourmand winner (until 2020), Sabri has been around for nearly 25 years. They have secured a rare patio space on Devon. This Pakistani restaurant’s signature namesake beef dish is memorable, as is the chicken boti, beef samosas, and lamb chops. Order to-go online.

Glorious kebobs grilled in a kitchen by a cook. Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Khan B.B.Q.

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No, you won't find meats slathered in sauce at this Pakistani spot. But it's a rare opportunity to find beef (Frontier beef) spiced the South Asian way. Don't sleep on the biryani, and mind the house rules, which are posted on the open/closed sign. Also, if you've ever wanted to try goat, this is the best place on Devon to sample the meat with several selections.

Annapurna Simply Vegetarian

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Annapurna is a quintessential Indian snack shop, and it’s vegetarian. Try the iconic Indian street food dish bhel puri (puffy rice mixed with potatoes, and onions) that’s served with chutney. The textures and mix of sweet and savory make it work. The restaurant recently moved and it now offers patio seating.

Udupi Palace

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Try the Thali at Udupi, the combo platter for veggie delights. And don't forget to sample the deep-fried puffy goodness that is the poori. Make sure there are some spiced potatoes at your disposal, too.

Tasting India

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Another pop-up, Tasting India is an operation from Jasmine Sheth, a chef who has whipped up meal kits, desserts, and packaged spices that showcase this Indian native’s love of cuisine. She’s dropped a huge Diwali sweet menu, and there is a variety to pick from like besan and motichoor ladoos, plus ghugharas.

tasting india’s diwali sweet spread. Jack X. Li/Eater Chicago

Basant Modern Indian Restaurant

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“Pork belly achari” isn’t a dish Chicagoans will find often, but customers can find this and other modern Indian takes at Basant in North Center. The Fish Basant, a salmon cooked in coconut milk and tomato sauce, is another star at the restaurant. They also have a tandoor Cornish hen and gulab jamun cheesecake.

MOMO Factory

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In Lakeview, this modest fast-casual Nepalese restaurant is a momo paradise with the cherished item available in numerous configurations. Food is fresh and flavorful. If dumplings don’t interest, don’t sleep on the rajma.

Celebrate the colorful of (dumplings) momo

Posted by Momo factory on Monday, February 3, 2020

Thattu began as a series of pop-ups before landing a spot in the defunct Politan Row food hall. The restaurant celebrates the cuisine of Kerala (that’s in South India; #KeralaWoke) with modern spins on classics. Only open for lunch for now, find delightful appam, a spicy fried chicken sandwich. They recently launched dinner with items like a beet puff and a spicy pork chop. Also, don’t forget to bring a few masala biscuits back home.

A smattering of dishes from Thattu. Jack X. Li/Eater Chicago

Mild 2 Spicy

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Everyone needs an ace in the hole Indian spot that can do a little bit of everything. Mild2Spicy in Lakeview is that spot. Customers will find a little bit of everything from crisp dosa, egg curries, to tandoori chicken. The quality and consistency are hallmarks that bring customers back.

Superkhana International

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What started out as a pop-up series in bars has blossomed into a hip restaurant that blends Indian flavors with American applications. Superkhana International isn’t a regional restaurant, but one that specializes in riffs like a butter chicken calzone and a pizza made of Indian flatbread. The dhokla is a can’t-miss dish, showing a traditional side. Try the weekend brunch for a really unique meal with appam, bacon, and more.

A baked and folded naan bread pocket on a blue and white plate stuffed with orange butter chicken sauce. Nick Fochtman/Eater Chicago

Chiya Chai

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There's probably not a better place for chai in Chicago. Chiya Chai, which opened has been open for years in Logan Square, features a mind-blowing assortment of teas brewed perfectly. There really is something for everyone inside this cute space. And there's the Nepalese food, featuring momos, this starchy and sticky dumpling filled with lamb and other goodies, including curry chicken wings. There are locations on the Chicago Riverwalk and the Loop.

Tandoor Char House

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Tandoor Char House has been a Lincoln Park and Lakeview classic for years, but more recently, the restaurant has challenged the traditional menu with burgers, tamarind chicken wings, and more. Folks can still find naan and sizzling platters, but it’s the fusion dishes that stick out. They’re open for to-go and have locations in River North and Ukrainian Village.

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Kababish BBQ & Grill

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This is an unlikely repurpose of a century-old shack that once housed Terry’s Red Hots. Kababish is nestled next to the luxury apartment tower where Father & Sons was razed near the El tracks. There’s a contrast between the Sweetgreen-loving tenants living in rooms with a view and the humble taxi drivers that pack Kababish. The focus is on Pakistani meats and the Frontier beef and the chapli kebob are well-seasoned and tender. The heat level varies, but this isn’t flame-throwing. The fried chicken is also worth noting. Customers will get the leg and thigh attached. It really goes well with the cooling raita. This is great for takeout, a quality option for nearby Wicker Park, plus Old Town and Lincoln Park residents.

After a brief closure earlier in 2022, Vajra, one of the city’s best Nepalese and Indian restaurants is back but has moved from West Town to Wicker Park. Still only carryout (ownership tells Eater they’ ’ll open for dine-in in December, they’re already hosting private events), Vajra offers dazzling momos, curries, and thoughtful flatbreads that are cooked in a tandoor. Vajra is a great call for some of the best South Asian food in Chicago. Hopefully opening the dining room will mean they’ll devote resources to the bar program which was one of the best in the city before the pandemic.

A black table with an array of dishes on it. The turkey is in the center, surrounded by salads, samosas, and naan. Vajra

Kama - Wicker Park

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Kama is a Wicker Park Indian restaurant that is the younger sibling of a suburban location that sought to serve Indian flavors in familiar vessels like tacos. The restaurant found a niche, but more than a decade later in the city, Kama arrives more polished with traditional North Indian fare plus Indian-American fusion including ribs, steak, and more. Those special items are available dine-in only where customers will also find an extensive cocktail menu.

A table laid with many dishes of food. Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Another Nepalese spot that serves great Indian food. This is where to try a momo, a Nepalese-style dumpling that's comparable to Chinese pot stickers.

Lilac Tiger/The Coach House

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In Wicker Park, Wazwan has given way to Lilac Tiger, a bar with some of its predecessor's menu such as a spicy fried chicken sandwich (known as the THC — tandoori honey chicken) and a beef burger with beef bacon (no pork here in a halal house) with a spicy cutlet. But the menu also brings spicy chicken nuggets, duck fried rice, and a multi-cultural pickle plate with Indian and Korean flavors. It’s from the same ownership that’s also added players from Arami and Kimski.

The imagination carries over to the back where the crew serves a fantastic tasting menu. One of the core dishes is a season duck dish inspired by a centuries-old recipe that dates back to medieval times. The Coach House is reservation only, and one of the most remarkable expressions of Indian cuisine in America. They’ve just added wine pairings and have unveiled a new menu that celebrates the links between Mexico and India.

A pickle plate. Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

This River North cafe began cranking out Indian-inspired pizzas during the pandemic. They’re almost California-style and cut into squares and triangles with topping options like chicken tikka and smashed samosa. But there are traditional options including veggie momos topped with a Manchurian-style sauce and diced green peppers. There’s also a Lincoln Park location.

Indienne

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Indienne brings a successful Indian chef who trained in London to River North where he adapts French techniques to Indian food. Using the same culinary philosophy as Floyd Cardoz, the legendary chef who was the first in America to blend these traditions, Indienne is an elegant restaurant with tasting menu and a la carte offerings. The restaurant is an effort to push the profile of Indian food to mainstream America through an improved presentation. The restaurant opened in the summer 2022.

A lamb chop with a bottle of opened wine and some red wine in a glass. Chris Peters/Eater Chicago

Bar Goa

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The owners of Rooh Chicago have opened a bar along Hubbard Street and the food is balanced with Indian-style snacks inspired by the city of Goa, located on India’s West Coast. Shredded pork and chicken make these “poi-wiches” addictive. Check out a fun prawn and chorizo fried rice, plus all-star chicken wings in a hip setting. There’s also location at Time Out Market food hall in Fulton Market.

Fries on a plate and a flatbread sandwich.
Bar Goa has two locations.
Time Out Market Chicago

Vermilion

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Vermilion has switched up gears, going from Latin-Indian fusion to Indo-Chinese fusion. The latter simply refers to how Chinese food is presented in India, catering to tastes in the subcontinent. You’ll find spicy noodles, sweet and savory fried cauliflower, and more. Indo-Chinese cuisine is known as a comfort food, and Vermilion’s team presents it in a fun and daring way.

Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

A spinoff of a San Francisco restaurant, ROOH represents the biggest splash an Indian restaurant has made in Chicago in decades, occupying a prominent location along Randolph Street. Butter chicken and other elevated classics are the focus. Now with a new chef, Boo Kim — he’s worked at Spring, Japanais and The Little Goat (he has also lived in Mumbai working Bastian and One Street Over) — Rooh presents familiar Indian food in an elevated matter and is a good choice for a celebratory dinner or for picky eaters who are just starting their Indian culinary education.

Bhoomi Modern Indian Grill

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Bhoomi is an ambitious project inside Urbanspace, the downtown food hall. The focus is on Indian grilled meats, all organic with playful renditions of kebobs, lamb burgers, and even a spicy prawn roll that merges Maine with Mumbai. This is one of the most unique Indian spots around and from the son of famed food writer Jiggs Kalra.

A trio of roti wraps
These aren’t normal tacos.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Art of Dosa

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Inside Revival Food Hall, a Chicago street festival favorite has found a home. This all-vegan restaurant focuses on the South Indian staple. Dosas are available traditionally and also in wrap form with vegan meat alternatives. The chutneys are fresh and pack heat, and ownership has managed to figure out the best carryout containers to ensure dosa gets delivered hot and fresh.

Dhuaan BBQ Company

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Dhuaan BBQ Company is a product of fusing Texas-style smoked meats with Indian spices. This is a pop-up that specializes in fare like Philly masala cheesesteaks, tandoori pork sliders, and mac and cheese featuring an Indian processed cheese called Amul. Check out Instagram for their next pop-up.

Chicago Curry House (Indian - Nepalese Cuisine)

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Long a standby for South Asian food south of Madison, Chicago Curry House hits all the right notes when it comes to classic Indian and Nepali food from the ‘70s and ‘80s. The food is dependable and the space is welcoming for groups. It’s not the most ambitious choice, but as long as the expectations in realistic, Curry House’s execution of a tested and tried formula can’t be beaten. A location is coming to Old Town on Division Street.

Sabri Nihari Restaurant

A former Michelin Bib Gourmand winner (until 2020), Sabri has been around for nearly 25 years. They have secured a rare patio space on Devon. This Pakistani restaurant’s signature namesake beef dish is memorable, as is the chicken boti, beef samosas, and lamb chops. Order to-go online.

Glorious kebobs grilled in a kitchen by a cook. Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Khan B.B.Q.

No, you won't find meats slathered in sauce at this Pakistani spot. But it's a rare opportunity to find beef (Frontier beef) spiced the South Asian way. Don't sleep on the biryani, and mind the house rules, which are posted on the open/closed sign. Also, if you've ever wanted to try goat, this is the best place on Devon to sample the meat with several selections.

Annapurna Simply Vegetarian

Annapurna is a quintessential Indian snack shop, and it’s vegetarian. Try the iconic Indian street food dish bhel puri (puffy rice mixed with potatoes, and onions) that’s served with chutney. The textures and mix of sweet and savory make it work. The restaurant recently moved and it now offers patio seating.

Udupi Palace

Try the Thali at Udupi, the combo platter for veggie delights. And don't forget to sample the deep-fried puffy goodness that is the poori. Make sure there are some spiced potatoes at your disposal, too.

Tasting India

Another pop-up, Tasting India is an operation from Jasmine Sheth, a chef who has whipped up meal kits, desserts, and packaged spices that showcase this Indian native’s love of cuisine. She’s dropped a huge Diwali sweet menu, and there is a variety to pick from like besan and motichoor ladoos, plus ghugharas.

tasting india’s diwali sweet spread. Jack X. Li/Eater Chicago

Basant Modern Indian Restaurant

“Pork belly achari” isn’t a dish Chicagoans will find often, but customers can find this and other modern Indian takes at Basant in North Center. The Fish Basant, a salmon cooked in coconut milk and tomato sauce, is another star at the restaurant. They also have a tandoor Cornish hen and gulab jamun cheesecake.

MOMO Factory

In Lakeview, this modest fast-casual Nepalese restaurant is a momo paradise with the cherished item available in numerous configurations. Food is fresh and flavorful. If dumplings don’t interest, don’t sleep on the rajma.

Celebrate the colorful of (dumplings) momo

Posted by Momo factory on Monday, February 3, 2020

Thattu

Thattu began as a series of pop-ups before landing a spot in the defunct Politan Row food hall. The restaurant celebrates the cuisine of Kerala (that’s in South India; #KeralaWoke) with modern spins on classics. Only open for lunch for now, find delightful appam, a spicy fried chicken sandwich. They recently launched dinner with items like a beet puff and a spicy pork chop. Also, don’t forget to bring a few masala biscuits back home.

A smattering of dishes from Thattu. Jack X. Li/Eater Chicago

Mild 2 Spicy

Everyone needs an ace in the hole Indian spot that can do a little bit of everything. Mild2Spicy in Lakeview is that spot. Customers will find a little bit of everything from crisp dosa, egg curries, to tandoori chicken. The quality and consistency are hallmarks that bring customers back.

Superkhana International

What started out as a pop-up series in bars has blossomed into a hip restaurant that blends Indian flavors with American applications. Superkhana International isn’t a regional restaurant, but one that specializes in riffs like a butter chicken calzone and a pizza made of Indian flatbread. The dhokla is a can’t-miss dish, showing a traditional side. Try the weekend brunch for a really unique meal with appam, bacon, and more.

A baked and folded naan bread pocket on a blue and white plate stuffed with orange butter chicken sauce. Nick Fochtman/Eater Chicago

Chiya Chai

There's probably not a better place for chai in Chicago. Chiya Chai, which opened has been open for years in Logan Square, features a mind-blowing assortment of teas brewed perfectly. There really is something for everyone inside this cute space. And there's the Nepalese food, featuring momos, this starchy and sticky dumpling filled with lamb and other goodies, including curry chicken wings. There are locations on the Chicago Riverwalk and the Loop.

Tandoor Char House

Tandoor Char House has been a Lincoln Park and Lakeview classic for years, but more recently, the restaurant has challenged the traditional menu with burgers, tamarind chicken wings, and more. Folks can still find naan and sizzling platters, but it’s the fusion dishes that stick out. They’re open for to-go and have locations in River North and Ukrainian Village.

Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Kababish BBQ & Grill

This is an unlikely repurpose of a century-old shack that once housed Terry’s Red Hots. Kababish is nestled next to the luxury apartment tower where Father & Sons was razed near the El tracks. There’s a contrast between the Sweetgreen-loving tenants living in rooms with a view and the humble taxi drivers that pack Kababish. The focus is on Pakistani meats and the Frontier beef and the chapli kebob are well-seasoned and tender. The heat level varies, but this isn’t flame-throwing. The fried chicken is also worth noting. Customers will get the leg and thigh attached. It really goes well with the cooling raita. This is great for takeout, a quality option for nearby Wicker Park, plus Old Town and Lincoln Park residents.

Vajra

After a brief closure earlier in 2022, Vajra, one of the city’s best Nepalese and Indian restaurants is back but has moved from West Town to Wicker Park. Still only carryout (ownership tells Eater they’ ’ll open for dine-in in December, they’re already hosting private events), Vajra offers dazzling momos, curries, and thoughtful flatbreads that are cooked in a tandoor. Vajra is a great call for some of the best South Asian food in Chicago. Hopefully opening the dining room will mean they’ll devote resources to the bar program which was one of the best in the city before the pandemic.

A black table with an array of dishes on it. The turkey is in the center, surrounded by salads, samosas, and naan. Vajra

Kama - Wicker Park

Kama is a Wicker Park Indian restaurant that is the younger sibling of a suburban location that sought to serve Indian flavors in familiar vessels like tacos. The restaurant found a niche, but more than a decade later in the city, Kama arrives more polished with traditional North Indian fare plus Indian-American fusion including ribs, steak, and more. Those special items are available dine-in only where customers will also find an extensive cocktail menu.

A table laid with many dishes of food. Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Related Maps

Cumin

Another Nepalese spot that serves great Indian food. This is where to try a momo, a Nepalese-style dumpling that's comparable to Chinese pot stickers.

Lilac Tiger/The Coach House

In Wicker Park, Wazwan has given way to Lilac Tiger, a bar with some of its predecessor's menu such as a spicy fried chicken sandwich (known as the THC — tandoori honey chicken) and a beef burger with beef bacon (no pork here in a halal house) with a spicy cutlet. But the menu also brings spicy chicken nuggets, duck fried rice, and a multi-cultural pickle plate with Indian and Korean flavors. It’s from the same ownership that’s also added players from Arami and Kimski.

The imagination carries over to the back where the crew serves a fantastic tasting menu. One of the core dishes is a season duck dish inspired by a centuries-old recipe that dates back to medieval times. The Coach House is reservation only, and one of the most remarkable expressions of Indian cuisine in America. They’ve just added wine pairings and have unveiled a new menu that celebrates the links between Mexico and India.

A pickle plate. Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

Moti

This River North cafe began cranking out Indian-inspired pizzas during the pandemic. They’re almost California-style and cut into squares and triangles with topping options like chicken tikka and smashed samosa. But there are traditional options including veggie momos topped with a Manchurian-style sauce and diced green peppers. There’s also a Lincoln Park location.

Indienne

Indienne brings a successful Indian chef who trained in London to River North where he adapts French techniques to Indian food. Using the same culinary philosophy as Floyd Cardoz, the legendary chef who was the first in America to blend these traditions, Indienne is an elegant restaurant with tasting menu and a la carte offerings. The restaurant is an effort to push the profile of Indian food to mainstream America through an improved presentation. The restaurant opened in the summer 2022.

A lamb chop with a bottle of opened wine and some red wine in a glass. Chris Peters/Eater Chicago

Bar Goa

The owners of Rooh Chicago have opened a bar along Hubbard Street and the food is balanced with Indian-style snacks inspired by the city of Goa, located on India’s West Coast. Shredded pork and chicken make these “poi-wiches” addictive. Check out a fun prawn and chorizo fried rice, plus all-star chicken wings in a hip setting. There’s also location at Time Out Market food hall in Fulton Market.

Fries on a plate and a flatbread sandwich.
Bar Goa has two locations.
Time Out Market Chicago

Vermilion

Vermilion has switched up gears, going from Latin-Indian fusion to Indo-Chinese fusion. The latter simply refers to how Chinese food is presented in India, catering to tastes in the subcontinent. You’ll find spicy noodles, sweet and savory fried cauliflower, and more. Indo-Chinese cuisine is known as a comfort food, and Vermilion’s team presents it in a fun and daring way.