Best Indian Restaurants in Chicago

5 months ago / by Team Seema
Indian Restaurants in Chicago
Image credits: Bing via Flickr

History of Chicago

Chicago has always had a sense of culture. Dubbed the “Windy City” by many worldwide, Chicago is the third largest city in the United States. It boasts a current population of 2,705,994. The city continues to grow and is known for its Impressionist paintings, skyscrapers, and various landmarks across the region.

Chicago has had an interesting history since its founding in 1837. It was the seat of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that left thousands homeless. The need for housing that resulted from that disaster spurred a series of construction projects that helped the city grow. These projects provided more landowing opportunities and jobs for those looking to relocate to the Windy City at that time.

Other interesting findings about Chicago include its involvement in the gangs of the 1920s. It was home to major turf leaders, the most notable one being Al Capone, who lead the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.

But it’s rich and zesty history doesn’t stop there. The world’s first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, was built in Chicago in 1885. Other skyscrapers followed, including the famed Sears Tower, which was once the tallest building in the world.

Chicago’s Food Culture

But it’s not the history or the imposing skyscrapers that give the city its flavor. Chicago is known for its love of food. 100% beef Chicago-style hot dogs with fresh poppyseed buns topped with onions, mustard, tomatoes and relish are a popular lunch item among the people. Classic deep dish pizzas are a beloved delicacy. And if that weren’t enough, there’s Maxwell Street Polish sausages with grilled onions and traditional yellow mustard.

Chicago’s widespread food culture includes a variety of local and ethnic styles from everywhere. Given its size and burgeoning population, Chicago’s landscape includes a variety of international eateries, including those who specialize in serving Indian food. Below are the top restaurants serving foods native to the Indian subcontinent.

1. Vajra

Rating: 5/5 stars

Famous for its garlic naan and wide variety of rice dishes, the Vajra has much to offer. The restaurant received good grades for fast and friendly customer service. And if you want something that’s different, the tofu tikka masala may be your choice. The dish is prepared with spices and a yogurt covering for your tofu bits.

Vajra is known for its dedicated staff. Each server is trained in patience and professionalism with a goal of customer satisfaction. If your food isn’t prepared to your satisfaction, that’s okay. You can send it back and request that it be cooked to suit your needs.

Vajra has many different spice levels for each item on the menu. You can order anything from mild to hot according to your preference. And if you’re not quite sure, your server may be able to recommend something that’s withing your price range.

A recent increase in prices everywhere has thr Vajra tightening its belt a bit. Prices for menu items have increased in an effort to get ahead. However, you’ll still be able to enjoy fine ethnic cuisine in an atmosphere that’s reputed to be full of positive vibes.

2. India Foodie

Rating: 5/5 stars

If you happen to be a vegetarian who lives in the Windy City, then you’re in luck here. The India Foodie has a vast menu with its fair share of plant-based options. You can choose from a list of appetizers like the spicy 2 piece vegetable samosa, which are two deep fried patties stuffed with peas and potatoes.

You can also sample from a variety of other entrees, such as the classy vegetable pakora with its herbal medley of vegetable fritters sautéed in butter and blended with a timeless chickpea sauce.

And if you wish to opt for something a little more simple, you have the aloo tiki. These simple deep-fried potato patties are the Indian version of western hash browns. Consequently, they serve as a good introduction to something different.

Indian Foodie also has a list of bread appetizers. You can order them with your meal or as a lite lunch entree. The butter and garlic naans both make for excellent tasty treats. Each bread is baked and not fried. The butter naan lives up to its moniker because butter is used to flavor the bread during the baking process. The same holds true for the garlic naan.

The Indian Foodie is well-known for other positives, such as their focus on quality customer service. You can watch a live performance as the kitchen staff prepare and cook your order. It’s a little like old school Benihana’s of Tokyo sans the fiery grille at your table.

What Indian Foodie is best rated for has to do with how you can build your order to suit your satisfaction. You can customize it to your personal tastes. If you’re looking for something less spicy, you can ask for it. Or you can have more spice added to flavor your meal. Either way, it’s your preference.

3. The Himilayan

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Himilayan is well-known for service with a smile. People from all over Chicagoland hail it as a place where servers and staff are courteous and prompt. Plus, it’s famous for serving up a sizeable platter of delicious entrees. Menu items include a variety of curry-based dishes and foods that are vegetable based.

One of the most unusual appetizers includes carrot pudding, aka the carrot halwa. This sweet little appetizer is a healthy alternative to other desserts. It’s made of a ghee base and is usually blended with milk, water, and a dash of sugar. You can savor it as a lite snack or a dessert to top off your main course.

The restaurant is reputed for its taste when it comes to the interior. The dining room is decorated with a contemporary flair that gives off an aura of ease. It’s small, cozy and relaxing. The goal is not just in the food but in the overall dining experience.

4. Bombay Wraps

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Known as an ethnic chipotle, Bombay Wraps is best known for its vast array of rice and protein entrees. Wraps, rolls and bowls is the mantra, and that’s exactly what Bombay Wraps aims to live up to.

Bombay Wraps can offer you a serving of its timeless flaky paratha. The entree is a simple, light airy flatbread that’s tasty, crispy, and yet soft to the touch. You can mix it with a vegetable dish or anything else you choose. You can also enjoy it alone. It’s a lot like a biscuit but not quite as doughy. This layered dish also pairs well with a spicy chai or curry dipping sauce.

Bombay Wraps offers many appetizers to suit a plethora of tastes. Samosa wraps are timeless and can include a variety of vegetables and other fillings. A good paneer wrap includes a good dose of cottage cheese, which is the actual paneer itself. The cheesy texture is graded just enough to emphasize a firm texture that can keep you full for hours. This makes it delightfully similar to firm tofu.

Bombay Wraps has a reputation that extends beyond good food. They are known for going above and beyond the call of basic customer service. One reviewer stated that restaurant staff still took their order ten minutes after the closing time. Consequently, the review earned them 5/5 stars. This type of quality service is rare, especially in an age where most businesses close early due to lack of workers.

5. Little India

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

If you’re craving the coconut naan, then odds are you’ll get it at Little India. This local establishment allows you to customize your naan to include a variety of nuts and flavors. You can choose from a list of other food options that suit your personal preferences.

The restaurant has several menu items that are meat friendly that use white meat chicken. For example, there is a special chicken gyro sandwich that uses that type of boneless meat. The only way it differs from a western gyro is that the bread base happens to be naan rather than a pita. This adds an interesting touch of the East to your meal.

Another positive for Little India is their wide selection of vegetarian and vegan friendly options. One of the most noted entrees is the veggie biryani, which is a pure spicy vegetable plate mixed with basmati rice and mixed vegetables of your choice. Other viable options are the vegetable combo or the spinach and cheese combo.

Little India’s weekend buffet provides ample opportunity for singles and families to enjoy the best of fine dining. You can enjoy an all-you-can-eat experience as you savor a vast array of different foods. You can build a sampler or mix and match any variety of your favorite foods after a busy work week.

The interior of Little India has a soothing, homey vibe that’s conducive to the dining experience. You’ll see gray marble tabletops amid a medium brown background. Initially, the two colors appear to contrast. But it’s the yellow that brings the colors together for an even, harmonious blend that’s soothing. It’s the sense of fall that brings you peace as you dine.

6. Maharaj Indian Grille

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Maharaj Indian Grille is most famous for some pretty creative entrees. Their high use of turmeric is used in a great deal of their meals, which is a popular immune booster. Couple that with the antibiotic power of the mighty ginger root and you might be eating well while fighting the flu.

The boneless chili chicken is a fiery delight of a main course.

Of course it pays to try the chicken tandoori with its balanced blend of spices and smooth yogurt. The entree is cooked using a plain yogurt that packs extra protein along with the chicken. Butter chicken uses a similar blend of the dairy(butter) to go along with the spiced up tomato and curry base.

But what really outweighs the fine food is the quality level of customer care you can expect to receive. Servers will move heaven and earth to win customers and keep them coming back for more. If you’re not satisfied with your meal, they will try and make it right. The rule of thumb is to offer you a free dessert or entree of your choice. And that’s the spirit of the fine dining industry.

7. Cumin

Rating: 4/5 stars

Appearance and decor matter when it comes to good food and quality service. With Cumin, all you have to do is look at the sign. Detailed flower icons seem to float on a see of reddish orange. The motif used seems to suggest that Cumin is a place where spice and aroma rule, and it’s evident in each menu item.

A restaurant full of spices and good food, Cumin is your stopping place for the famed chicken tikka masala and the palak paneer. Each entree is artistically arranged with its brilliant colors, which makes the food look every but as attractive as its flavor.

Cumin is home to the golub jamun. This sweet little dessert treat is unique for the tiny balls made with milk, flower and flour. It makes an excellent addition to your main course but can also be enjoyed as an appetizer or a snack.

What Cumin is famous for are the chicken tikka and the chicken tikka masala, both of which use white meat chicken. Other similarities include a creamy tomato-based sauce to flavor the chicken. The main difference is that the masala is a bit spicier, so if you’re looking for a milder version, the chicken tikka is the better choice.

Cumin is reputed for its topnotch customer service and easy ordering options. You can dine in or order something to go. Plus, there’s delivery available if you want to stay home.

Summing It Up

Ethnic cuisine has been a large part of urban life in the US for decades. This has spawned a major interest in international foods, which continues to spur demand. Indian food in particular has enjoyed a soaring popularity among native Chicagoans and travelers alike. Spice is the flavor that gives every meal its own personality. And that’s why so many enjoy the finest in Indian cuisine.