Deep-dish pizza might be the first food that comes to mind for most visitors to Chicago. But you’d be remiss if you limited your Chicago culinary journey to just that. The food scene in the city offers a variety and depth that is unmatched across many parts of the country and the world. Whether it is Chinese, Mexican, Italian, or Japanese cuisine, Chicago brings the global to your doorstep. There are several South Asian and particularly Indian restaurants in Chicago that serve everything from crispy dosas to street food, Mughlai to desi thin-crust pizzas.
I’m an Indian who was born, raised, and spent more than two decades of my life in Mumbai. As with many cultures around the world, food is not just a means of filling our stomachs in India but serves as a means of satiating our souls. A parent asking whether you’ve eaten multiple times a day is their way of saying I love you without using those words. A variety of dishes at our weddings is a way of ensuring that everyone finds something they love.
I moved to Chicago almost twelve years ago. One of my favorite things about living here is that I don’t need to leave behind the flavors of my childhood and youth. They can still be a part of my everyday life even when I’m not in the mood of cooking at home. Here’s a local’s guide to the best Indian restaurants in Chicago based on my personal experience. Full disclosure before we begin, some of the restaurants mentioned here are Pakistani or Nepali that also serve Indian dishes as there’s a good degree of overlap in South Asian cuisines.
Thattu by Vinod Kalathil and Chef Margaret Pak brings incredible cuisine from the southern state of Kerala to Chicago. What started as a stall in the Politan Row food hall in 2019 has now grown into a full-fledged, spacious restaurant in the city’s Avondale neighborhood.
Back from a recent trip to Alappuzha, Kerala, I couldn’t be more thrilled at the prospect of digging into a curry and appam in my own backyard. I dined at Thattu last weekend and instantly fell in love with the food and vibe. My husband and I tried the Fish Fry and Kadala Curry and topped it off with a Malabar Ginger Cooler. The well-spiced fish was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The creamy black chickpeas curry paired perfectly with the soft appam. It felt akin to eating delicious home-cooked food at a friend’s place, a rare feat, in today’s frenetic times.
The place has been open for lunch from Thu – Sun 11 am to 2:30 pm since April 23rd, 2023. Starting May 27th, they will also start serving dinner Thu – Sun 5 pm to 9 pm with new items on the menu. I can’t wait to return and try their Mussel Fry and Meen Polichathu (steamed fish). Walk-ins are welcome but I’d recommend reserving a table in advance especially if you’re a bigger group.
The simplicity and elegance of the food extend to the ambiance. A saree runs across the high-ceiling wooden beams, stainless steel glasses sit next to the water cooler, and exposed brick walls are interspersed with colorful murals and scenes from everyday life in India. Above all, Thattu transports you to a different place and time and gives you a moment to pause and relish a meal with all five senses.
Address: 2601 W Fletcher St Chicago IL 60618
Named after a festival celebrated in spring that signifies new beginnings, Basant Modern Indian Grill delivers great taste in a trendy setting. Their celebrated executive chef Manmohan Singh has created a menu that offers traditional classics like kheema matar, makhani, and saag gravies as well as a fun twist on dishes like poblano pepper with Punjabi kadhi.
Normally, one tends to focus only on the main entrees. But at Basant, you should seriously pay attention to the sides. These don’t include rice but are great authentic dishes at almost half the price of the main entrees if you’re looking to dine on a budget.
Try the Old Delhi-style chana masala, a uniquely spiced dish of garbanzo beans, or the slow-cooked black lentils of Dal Maharani and you will be reaching out for second helpings. The roti deserves a special mention too for its size, warmth, and softness that perfectly complements the gravies.
Address: 1939 W Byron St, Chicago IL 60613
3. Bombay Eats
If you’re looking to grab Indian food but without the wait, look no further than Bombay Eats. This quick service and easy-to-assemble food were brought to the city by the wife and husband duo Falguni and Ali Dewjee.
I’ve been a huge fan of Bombay Eats ever since it was called Bombay Wraps and only had one location in the loop on Wells Street. Now, the restaurant has expanded to four locations and the menu has grown to include the fillings in bowls and bread rolls.
The concept is simple – there are a variety of vegetarian and meat fillings prepared in advance. These can then be served inside a flaky paratha, whole wheat roti, toasted and buttered bread roll, or in a bowl featuring rice or salad topped with sauces and accompanied by sides.
Mind you, just because the food is served and assembled fast, doesn’t mean it is your typical fast food. The marination and simmering are evident in the bona fide flavors in every bite. Chickpea chana and cheese paneer remain my all-time favorite items on the vegetarian side while the halal beef kabab is a true ode to the seekh parathas of India.
Address: 3149 1/2 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657
330 E Ohio St #3308, Chicago, IL 60611
122 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60606
4. Gorkha Kitchen
Every neighborhood has its own hidden gems and I’m thrilled that my neighborhood has Gorkha Kitchen. Gorkha Kitchen brings Indian and Nepalese cuisine to Chicago in the form of momos, steamed or fried dumplings with spiced fillings, and a large array of vegetarian plus non-vegetarian curries, rice dishes, and desserts.
Try the paneer or chicken chili masala for a slight kick or opt for a Goa-style fish curry replete with warm coconut flavors. The vegetarian and chicken momos come in both steamed and fried varieties but my favorite is the spicy chilly fried momo with cubes of bell pepper, onions in sweet chili, and Gorkha special hot sauce.
Address: 434 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60614
5. Sabri Nihari
Devon Ave or Chicago’s Little India may be teeming with South Asian cuisine. But the Michelin Bib Gourmand award-winning Pakistani restaurant Sabri Nihari clearly stands out for its top-notch flavors and consistency. This award recognizes fine cuisine without the hefty price tag and it is easy to see why.
The atmosphere is cozy and vibrant and service is super efficient. The interiors were redone a few years ago so the ambiance also matches the food quality. The food is rich and the quantities are generous, so even a little goes a long way here. This is my go-to place to take out-of-town guests to give them a taste of the range and depth of flavors. I’ve tried so many dishes over the years and have yet to find something that I didn’t like.
First-timers should try the restaurant’s signature dish Sabri Nihari which is a slow-cooked spiced beef stew for that delicious, soft meat. Or opt for the smoky flavors of tender Frontier chicken cooked with onions and green peppers or the dense flavors of goat meat in karahi gosht.
There are some unique items on the menu like brain masala and kunnah paya for the more adventurous eaters. Looking for a unique dessert? Try the triple-decker falooda or classic kulfi to finish off your meal.
Address: 2502 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659
One bite of the kadai paneer or even a simple dal makhani and you’ll see why Rangoli has emerged as one of the best Indian restaurants in Chicago with the South Asian community. The flavors hit all the right notes and remind me of the authentic taste of North Indian or Mughlai food back home.
There is a particularly large selection of lamb-based dishes from rogan josh to the novel Kolaveri “D” named after a popular Tamil song. Don’t worry if you’re not into red meat, there’s a vegetarian equivalent of the latter featuring potatoes, chickpeas, and mushrooms.
Aside from the wide array of vegetarian and chicken entrees, there’s also a surprise street food Pav Bhaji in the appetizer section which is not commonly found in most North Indian eateries.
Address: 2421 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
7. Moti Cafe
The Mumbaikar in me is head over heels in love with chaat. So I’m always excited when a new restaurant brings street food to Chicago. Moti Cafe really hits it out of the park and brings the authentic taste of Indian street food to America.
There are three main approaches you can use for dining here. 1. Go for two or three small plate snacks like vada pav or momos to maximize variety and flavors. 2. Build your own wrap/bowl/tacos with a rice or salad base, protein, and gravy finishing it off with toppings and sauces. 3. Opt for Indian-style pizzas with exciting flavors like paneer tikka, vada pav, or samosa smash to combine the best of both worlds.
Desi-flavored pizzas were something I always missed in the US and I’m so glad Moti Cafe has stepped in to fill that void!
Address: 70 W Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60654
8. Bar Goa
Bar Goa is a trendy gastropub that brings the beachy, vibrant vibe of coastal Goa to Chicago. The menu is selective but captures the essence of Goan cuisine with dishes like whole fish wrapped in banana leaf, coconut milk-based chicken curry, or Portuguese-influenced pork vindaloo sliders.
Vegetarians will love the soft and smoky grilled paneer lying on a bed of green spiced ghee-based gravy topped with mixed greens. True to its name, the place features incredible drinks, especially Indian-inspired cocktails.
A unique drink that is rarely found in the US is Goa’s cashew feni, a pungent liquor paired with lemon-lime soda or a mild Chicago brew for balance. The place features great electronic music and even comedy shows so be sure to check the lineup of events and book in advance. They also have a spot with a limited menu at the TimeOut Market located at 916 W Fulton Market.
Address: 116 W Hubbard St Suite 1, Chicago, IL 60654
9. Anmol BBQ
Anmol BBQ is another Pakistani gem on Devon Ave serving Mughlai cuisine with a large selection of chicken, mutton, beef, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. But the biggest attraction here is the variety of juicy, marinated grilled meats.
It can be hard to pick just one, so I’d recommend opting for one of the Anmol platters to get a mix of several varieties. The Anmol platter #1 is a great pic if you are sticking to poultry and red meat and the Anmol platter #2 is a wise choice if you’re looking for a taste of seafood as well.
Address: 2858 W. Devon Ave., Chicago, IL 60659
10. Art of Dosa
What started as the love of a son for his mother’s vegetarian cooking has evolved into a wonderful permanent addition to Revival Hall in the heart of downtown. Dosas are crispy, savory crepes made from ground and fermented batter of black lentils and rice. They are usually accompanied by chutney and sambar which is a lentil and vegetable stew.
Growing up, I loved eating not just the traditional masala dosa with potato filling but also the various fun twists that emerged from experimenting with the fillings. Art of Dosa absolutely recreates that essence with fresh variations like ramen, buffalo, and 65 alongside the traditional masala and plain dosas.
This is a must-visit place for all dosa lovers and especially vegans and vegetarians. Even the chutneys deserve a special mention here. They are made with fresh coconut, and red pepper plus there’s the ultimate southern India dry chutney aptly named gunpowder for its explosive taste.
Address: 72 W Adams St., Chicago, IL
11. Egg Holic
There’s more to eggs than just scrambled and fried. What if I told you there was an entire restaurant dedicated to the goodness of Indian-styled eggs? I love this place for the very specific and unique taste of India that it brings to not only Chicago but a growing number of locations across the United States.
From shredded hard-boiled eggs cooked in the spiced gotalo or lachko style to egg sandwiches and pulavs, this restaurant has it all. While the place keeps eggs front and center, your meal doesn’t have to end there. There are delicious snacks like the Amdavadi Touch sandwich filled with the spiced goodness of mashed potato and a growing repertoire of paneer and halal chicken offerings.
Finish off the meal with a sweet pan or mango mastani and you will surely be back for more.
Address: 833 W Chicago Ave, Chicago IL, 60642
12. Chia Chai
Before I talk about the food at Chia Chai, I need to talk about the beverage they are named after. You’ll forget all about chai lattes once you try unique and refreshing tea options like cardamom pistachio, ginger fennel, and blueberry lavender. This place is really a tea lover’s dream!
But chai is just the beginning of the satisfying meal you are about to have in this place. There are ample snacks like sev puri, aloo chaat, gorgeous-looking momos, full-length bowls, and dinner entrees featuring classic staples like pork vindaloo and masala paneer.
The most unique item on the menu here that you really ought to try is the savory pies. These come in a handful of variations featuring pork, chicken, and veggie fillings with Indian and Nepali spices.
Address: 2770 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
79 E Madison Street, Chicago, IL 60602
13. Udipi Palace
Udipi Palace remains the OG of South Indian food amidst the numerous Mughlai cuisine establishments of Devon Ave. It exudes the no-frills, simple yet comfortable vibe that is characteristic of several South Indian restaurants I’ve visited in India. You can start with an idli vada combo before working your way to the dosas or uttapams that occupy the center stage.
While dosas are the crisp savory crepes, uttapams are their fluffier, softer siblings that visually remind you of pancakes. These are savory just like dosas and are topped with onions, tomatoes, chilies, and more.
A noteworthy section of the menu that is easy to overlook due to the dosa and uttapam varieties is the rice section. Here you can find scrumptious, traditional rice dishes like bisi bele bath, tamarind rice, and pongal that aren’t usually found elsewhere.
Address: 2543 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659
Annapurna’s arrival on Devon dates as far as 1982 making it one of the oldest vegetarian Indian restaurants in Chicago. It kind of offers a bit of everything from chaat to thalis (platters) and dosas to chole bhature. I started frequenting this place for chaat ever since my favorite chaat place Kamdaar Plaza closed shop.
But of late I’ve begun stepping in for proper meals like the Gujarati thali or the khichdi kadhi which is part of the weekday lunch specials. Keep an eye out for the pani puri counter if it’s in operation. Here someone will be filling puffed crispy puris with potatoes, chickpeas, and hot and tangy chutneys for you to immediately gobble on the spot, just like it’s done on the streets of India.
Address: 2600 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659
15. Ghareeb Nawaz
I’m so excited that this Devon gem has just opened up a new location in Lincoln Park. Ghareeb Nawaz will make you realize that good food doesn’t have to be expensive. This place offers breakfast parathas for 99 cents and flavorful biryanis with marinated, soft meats that come in solid quantities for under 10$. Chili chicken is one of the popular items on offer here so you can try that in the biryani form, full entree, or with the paratha.
Achari gosht, nihari, and paya are other mouthwatering items on the menu. There’s really no way to get a taste of the whole menu in one visit, you really have to return to truly make a dent. If you have some room after the main course, try the kheer or double ka meetha for that sugar rush before leaving.
Address: 2032 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659
2364 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
16. India Garden
Stop by India Garden if you’re in downtown looking for a nice, sit-down Indian meal. This was one of our favorite spots for team lunches back in the day when we were all working from offices every weekday.
The lunch buffet between 11 am to 3 pm every day gives you a variety of dishes to choose from without any wait times and fresh naan is brought to your tables. They also serve dinner thalis which offer a sampling of a handful of dishes including vegan fare.
Or you could order a mix of chicken, lamb, seafood, and vegetarian entrees to share. The Murg Makhmal E’ Zafrani is one of my favorite tandoor items on the menu featuring chicken breasts in a creamy marination of almond and yogurt. Notable entree mentions include paneer kadai or the lamb dish gosht rogan josh.
Address: 247 E Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60611
And that friends, is my list of recommendations for the best Indian restaurants in Chicago. Chicago is such a food lover’s paradise that it was hard to contain this list to just sixteen. I’ve tried my best to highlight new places along with long-standing favorites.
I know food can be a passionate topic for many of us 🙂 So if you think I’ve missed out on your favorite place, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear about your favorite dishes that you think others should definitely try out!