With local Chicago guide Hira Khan
The United States is referred to as the melting pot of different cultures and Chicago’s diverse population is a prime example of that. Located towards the center of the country, the beloved Windy City attracts tourists and immigrants from all over the globe. While many associate Chicago with pizza, it has grown into a hot spot for visitors to try all kinds of ethnic cuisines including Pakistani/Indian food.
Best known for its vibrant and flavorful dishes, Pakistani/Indian cuisine is certainly not for the faint of heart. With curry and other aromatic spices being at the heart of many dishes, each bite will leave you wanting more and more. While the differences between Indian food and Pakistani food comes from the divide in the Hindu vs. Muslim population, there are many similarities between the two cuisines as well. In this article, we will discuss restaurants that serve either Pakistani or Indian (or both) cuisines.
While the list of Pakistani/Indian restaurants in Chicago could go on and on, we have narrowed it down to some of the best Pakistani/Indian restaurants you absolutely must check out during your visit if you are a fan or simply curious to try out Pakistani/Indian cuisine.
1. Tandoor Char House
This Pakistani/Indian Fusion restaurant provides a fine-dining experience like no other. The restaurant attracts people of all ethnicities due to its unique quality of serving dishes that blend Pakistani/Indian dishes with cuisines of different cultures. For example, tikka masala tacos are a popular dish among those who love both Hispanic and Indian cuisine. You also can’t go wrong by ordering the other popular fusion dishes such as the Penne Tikka Masala and Tandoori Chicken empanadas. The creativity of the chefs is just oozing out of all the dishes. For those who don’t like to stray from tradition, their signature Indian/Pakistani dishes such as Biryani and Cholay are also mouth-watering. Word of advice, you better call this restaurant for reservations instead of just walking in because that is how popular it is among locals and visitors.
2652 N Halsted (Lincoln Park) and 11 W Hubbard St (River North)
Penne Tikki Masala (Photo: www.tandoorchicago.com)
Named after one of the most commonly used spices in traditional Pakistani and Indian food, Cumin deserves its rating as a top-tier Indian restaurant in Chicago, but is also recognized as one of the best in the entire United States. Cumin was awarded the Michelin’s Bib Gourmand from 2011 to 2019 for their modern cuisine. In 2010, it was the first Indian/Nepalese restaurant to open in Chicago’s artsy Wicker Park neighborhood. Nepalese food incorporates a lot of the same ingredients as Indian cuisine, but on a milder level. This makes Cumin the perfect restaurant for the whole family, when the kids might have less tolerance to spicy foods. Nepalese food also caters to health-conscious individuals because they do not use any dairy in their dishes. They have a wide variety of menu items from Kashmiri Pulao to lamb curry to chicken 65. The dark walls of the restaurant create a soothing and romantic ambiance for a truly amazing fine-dining experience. Also, the restaurant comes equipped with a full bar with imported beer such as Taj Mahal and Sula, an Indian Sauvignon Blanc.
1414 N Milwaukee Ave
Located in the heart of Chicago’s famous Devon neighborhood, Tahoora sweets and bakery had to make the list. Tahoora started as a small bakery with a vision to serve Pakistani/Indian treats to the community when it first opened its doors in 1996. Since then, the bakery has become a nationally recognized brand and their sweets are sold in packages that are distributed at weddings throughout America and Canada. It is arguably the most famous and popular restaurant in all of Chicago’s Devon neighborhood, an area FILLED with Indian/Pakistani restaurants. Tahoora’s selection of mithai (a Hindi word for “sweets”) includes gulab jamun, kalakand, and ladoo but a personal favorite is a cold dessert item known as Falooda. This is a delicious blend of cream, ice cream, and noodles. You will just have to try it to soak in all of the delicious flavors yourself!
2345 W Devon Ave
Falooda (Photo: tahoora.com)
4. Khan BBQ
Also located in Chicago’s Devon neighborhood, Khan BBQ is for meat-lovers. It was voted the best restaurant in all of Chicago by the Chicago Reader. The Pakistani dishes are so delicious that it was even recognized and recommended by the television channel, WTTW. BBQ lovers come here especially for their seekh kabab, chapli kabab, and tandoori chicken. The prices are on the higher side but are justified by the portion size, quality, and taste of the food. And if you have a vegetarian in the family, do not worry! They have a whole variety of mouth-watering vegetable dishes, including the Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry), Bhindi (Okra Curry), and Daal Palak (Spinach-Lentil Curry).
2401 W Devon Ave
Let’s shift gears from a meat-focused restaurant to a vegetarian-only restaurant. Honest restaurant opened its first location in India in 1975. The restaurant gained wide recognition and quickly became a franchise with multiple locations. The Schaumburg location is located in the Chicagoland Northwest suburbs. This all-vegetarian restaurant offers South Indian cuisines such as dosas and North Indian staples such as the classic Samosa. They also have a non-traditional menu that includes Indo-Chinese cuisine and Indian Pizza. Honest is one of the only restaurants in Chicago that serves the Indian street food style Pizza that is to die for. It has quickly become a leader in the market for Indian street food and so be sure to check out their mouth-watering snacks next time you are in the Windy City.
835 W. Higgins Rd, Shaumburg
Truly, Chicago is home to some of the best Indian and Pakistani cuisines you will find outside of South Asia. It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie bold enough to try Pakistani and Indian cuisines, a seasoned professional looking for the best spots, or simply curious to try Pakistani/Indian food. You must check out some of our recommended hot spots for an experience you will never forget.