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10 Popular Indian Restaurants In Chicago, Ranked

Indian dishes and Chicago skyline
Indian dishes and Chicago skyline - Static Media/Shutterstock/Instagram

Every Chicagoan has their favorite South Asian spot. The one whose naan is a little chewier, whose butter chicken is just a little bit creamier. Who slips a side of chutney and achar into your takeout bag for the samosas you didn't need to order alongside four servings of biryani, but of course you did. And Chicago has no shortage of South Asian restaurants to choose from: Indo-Pak holes-in-the-walls and Himalayan restaurants with white tablecloths, to contemporary renditions of Nepalese cuisine.

Head north of the city center to experience Devon Ave, considered Little India of Chicago. There you'll find halal grocers with an infinite array of bulk spices, bodegas on street corners selling paan (the South Indian treat made with spices and betel leaf), and plenty of BYOB cafeteria-style restaurants ready to scoop a heaping portion of hot lamb vindaloo onto your plate. Or visit the Loop for a trendier vibe, fully stocked bar, and creative cocktail list.

We've identified the most popular spots across the city according to reviews and ratings on Google and Yelp, from fast-casual counter service joints to fully decked-out, sit-down affairs. We then ranked each by atmosphere, food quality, menu diversity, and price point to help you find your next hidden (or not-so-hidden) gem. More on this is detailed at the end of the article. Without further ado, here's our pick of the most popular Indian restaurants in Chicago.

Read more: 12 Different Ways To Cook Chicken

10. Ghareeb Nawaz

metal tray with indian thali
metal tray with indian thali - kdiifficille/Instagram

Family-owned and operated Ghareeb Nawaz opened its doors in Rogers Park in 1993 with a simple mission: to ensure no one in the neighborhood went hungry. The restaurant takes its namesake from a saint revered for giving alms to the poor, and the popularity of its benevolence has led to other Ghareeb Nawaz outposts spreading across the city.

The restaurant offers a selection of cheap yet filling curries, rice dishes, and dals. Food is served cafeteria-style on metal trays with dividers. An order of bright-red chili chicken rice, a play on biryani, will cost you less than $12 and comes with a side of naan and yogurt (price correct at the time of publication). The Indo-Pak spot is popular with the late-night crowd of students and rideshare drivers alike. As such, the restaurant has reimagined classic paratha bread as a burrito filled with chicken, egg, or vegetables for convenient, on-the-go eating.

Of course, the cheaper price tag comes with trade-offs in flavor and quality. "Probably won't be winning any Michelin or Zagat awards, but they're not trying to do that," argues one Yelp reviewer. Indeed; reviewing it from the perspective of a gourmand is a fool's errand. One must appreciate its efforts to serve affordable grub to hungry customers trying to make a paycheck stretch. At this price point, we'll sacrifice some flavor if it means keeping food as it was designed to be: accessible and ultimately, nourishing.

ghareebnawazonline.com

2032 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60659

(773) 761-5300

9. Nepal House

Nepal House dining room seating
Nepal House dining room seating - house.nepal/Instagram

If it's Himalayan food you're after, Nepal House is the restaurant. While it may not be the most stylish of restaurants — more reminiscent of a banquet hall than a place you'd want to escape to after a long workweek — the bar in the central dining room will make unwinding easy. Nepal House offers two popular and easy-to-find locations: one on Chicago's iconic Michigan Ave, and the other on Devon. This is the avenue recognized nationally as Chicago's "Little India" for the surrounding neighborhoods' large South Asian population, which has managed to resist gentrification.

Nepal House is the sister restaurant to the aforementioned Chicago Curry House. It's difficult to identify what sets these two siblings apart, or what necessitates the alternate name, as both menus reflect heavy Nepalese influence. The menu features all the classic saucy Indian staples, like chicken tikka, chana masalas, and a chicken curry scented with cardamon. It also serves janeko dal: yellow lentils cooked in a traditional Nepalese wok with onion, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes. When ordering momos, feel free to skip the cloying dipping sauces, which one salt-averse Yelp reviewer concludes are "a hit or a miss". For an impressive option, the tandoor fish is, as another diner described it, show-stopping: spiced, marinated, and grilled whole in a tandoor oven.

nepalhouseonline.com

(312) 922-0601

1301 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

8. The Spice Room

The Spice Room curry naan and rice dishes
The Spice Room curry naan and rice dishes - candc_tastechicago/Instagram

If you're a local in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, chances are you've walked past The Spice Room and seen a line of hungry folks ready to dine in or take away. Whether this is due to a dearth of Indian takeout joints in the city's historically Latin-American neighborhood, the restaurant's proximity to the Blue Line, or the food itself, this BYOB joint has the potential to become your next neighborhood haunt. From the sidewalk, the humble, historical-looking Indian spot, which once housed an English pub, looks like it should be peddling spices, not cooking amply spiced Indian dishes. But that's exactly what it does ─ and it does it well.

The Spice Room boasts an extensive selection of traditional fare you'd find on Devon Ave, Chicago's Little India, like aloo gobi and chicken korma, but prepared with seemingly fresher and higher-quality ingredients. Our only gripes are with the portions: Crispy samosas served with fresh chutneys, a customer favorite, are on the smaller side, according to one reviewer on Google; and butter chicken, though flavorful, skews heavier on the sauce than protein, according to another. Watch out if you're spice-averse, as heat levels seem to be inconsistent. And because of the restaurant's popularity, wait times can drag.

spiceroomchicago.com

(773) 360-8689

2906 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

7. Chiya Chai

Interior of chiya chai restaurant
Interior of chiya chai restaurant - chiyachai/Instagram

At Chiya Chai's flagship location in Logan Square, you're just as likely to find remote workers hunched over laptops as you are diners looking for a quick but authentic South Asian meal. The cozy cafe vibe will delight with its impressive selection of Indian and Nepalese dishes alongsideone of the largest selections of made-for-you chai in the world. Buttery, flaky hand pies filled with chicken curry feature next to the more traditional Indian dishes, like vegetable jalfrezi and pork vindaloo. Modern American-inspired side dishes, like french fries smothered in spicy curry sauce, are given the South Asian treatment. Despite the dish skewing Nepalese, skip the momo, whose vegetable filling Chicago Reader's Mike Sula claims lacks spice and depth, unlike its extensive chai program.

The persistent hum of the barista's milk steamer will remind you between bites of rice that this counter-service Indian restaurant exists to replace coffee in our culinary imagination with a kind of religious fervor. Chiya Chai's owner, Swadesh Shrestha's family has been importing tea from Nepal since the '70s. The chai can even be purchased to-go in large formats for your next office party. It's obvious the food here is second rate to the spicy Indian beverage, whose unusual blends, like pink salt and almond butter, have a notably "chef-driven" quality to them.

chiyachai.com

(773) 360-7541

2770 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

6. Moti

Interior of moti modern indian
Interior of moti modern indian - moti.chicago/Instagram

Moti is the brainchild of Jay Patel, who opened the location on Huron Street after leaving his job working in corporate fast food. The original concept began as a coffee shop, then transformed into its current fast-casual iteration when Patel sensed the city's need for quick and convenient vegetarian, vegan, and halal options.

Patel's grandmother, nicknamed "moti-mummy" (via Brown Girl Magazine), is the inspiration behind Moti's homecooked, albeit unusual creations. The cafe distinguishes itself by its creative, convenient offerings; like a selection of sauce-topped momos, and build-your-own bowl burrito or taco options. During the pandemic, Patel began to appeal to Westerners' penchant for handhelds and cheese pulls by launching his new business venture, Masala Pizzas in the hopes of reaching beyond the dwindling 9-5 lunch crowd.

Moti promises a welcoming, inclusive cafe environment. The somewhat obscure and disjointed menu proves no cuisine can't be infused with Indian flavors: Moti's masala elote pizza is topped with sev, crunchy noodles made from chickpea flour, masala spiced corn, and your choice of protein for a staggering three-cuisines-in-one-dish experience. While the yum-factor may come across a bit aggressively, the creative cafe gets points for making Indian flavors feel accessible to diners accustomed to the mere handful of cuisines that have long dominated the fast-casual model.

motichicago.com

(312) 344-3670

70 W Huron St, Chicago, IL 60654

5. India House

Sizzling platter of chicken kadhai
Sizzling platter of chicken kadhai - indiahouserestaurants/Instagram

India House, one of Chicago's most beloved and long-standing Indian restaurants, has been serving Nepalese cuisine since 1993. It all began when Chef Jagmohan Jayara bought the original Schaumberg location outright, with little money left over to support himself and not much in the way of a business plan, according to WBEZ Chicago. Back then, there were only a handful of restaurants in the city; the limited menus appealed mostly to South Asian palates.

Jayara's vision was different: He wanted to slowly introduce Chicagoans to the flavors of his childhood, while still appealing to the Indian immigrant community's longing for dishes from home. The restaurant's positive reception encouraged the chef to open up another location in Downtown Chicago, which has since gone on to win a Zagat award.

The downtown location means appealing to downtown clientele, and though the posh vibe, with faux-croc embossed chairs, feels forced, the service and quality of the food are impressive. According to one Google reviewer, the fragrant chicken tikka comes out on sizzling platters, and the onion bhaji, featuring finely chopped onion tossed in spices and deep fried, is some of the best out there. If you're working downtown, the Chicago location offers a seven-day-a-week lunch buffet for just shy of $20 ─ well worth the price (correct at the time of publication) if you can handle that much rice and naan before putting in another few hours at your desk.

indiahousechicago.com

(312) 645-9500

59 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60654

4. Indian Garden

interior of indian garden restaurant
interior of indian garden restaurant - theindiangarden/Instagram

Take the elevator up to the second floor and step into an urban oasis that feels like a dinner theater. Indian Garden describes itself as "culinary nirvana." It's this over-the-top, transportive quality that makes the Indian Garden experience such a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike. The ornate furnishings feel flamboyantly South Asian-inspired, with blue velvet chairs and walls glimmering in a vibrant shade of orange. Clusters of Indian pendant lamps dangle from the ceiling, while bronze sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses flank the walls, and embroidery of Krishna and Ganesha dance on pillowcases.

Indian Garden takes its service equally seriously, with overzealous waiters in starched white shirts and bistro aprons. The restaurant boasts a full bar, and Indian Garden is undoubtedly proud of its cocktail menu, which includes stellar fruity concoctions like cherry martinis and orange margaritas. The restaurant believes that the foundation of all Indian cuisine is its spices, and its focus is on bringing aromatic depth to regional dishes ─ like jheenga madras, a spicy shrimp dish cooked within a coconut sauce, and kadhai goasht, bone-in lamb simmered low and slow until meltingly tender. While we can't promise that the vision is being executed with more panache than less-opulent Indo-Pak restaurants, it does boast the best view: If you're seated next to a window you can peer out at the traffic below and watch the city life stir by.

indiangardenchicago.com

(312) 280-4910

247 E Ontario St, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60611

3. Superkhana International

pizza with bechamel and cauliflower
pizza with bechamel and cauliflower - superkhana/Instagram

It'd be reductive to call this hip amalgam of immigrant cuisines strictly an Indian restaurant. Superkhana defies mainstream culinary labels, classifying itself as "wickedly awesome cuisine" on its Instagram. This roughly translates to Midwestern ingredients prepared in (mostly) South Asian flavor profiles using global techniques.

Take its calzone: The Italian-American handheld is stuffed with creamy butter chicken made all the more flavorful with thigh instead of breast meat from nearby Gunthorp Farms, and Amul cheese, a nostalgic processed dairy product from India. In one dish, Maggi noodles are topped irreverently with lamb-and-beef-based Bolognese sauce and garnished with achar masala. At times the menu can feel over-the-top and disjointed, but challenging our notion of the singular cuisine is kind of the point.

Despite the mash-up of international influences, Supekhana's chef cautions that this food isn't uneducated fusion: "The word 'fusion' feels like something forced together," says chef Yoshi Yamamada, in conversation with The Michelin Guide. "Like welded or placed in an unlikely position to something else." Instead, its food serves to showcase the chefs' extensive and diverse culinary experiences in kitchens across Chicago. Superkhana is outwardly supportive of its fellow hospitality comrades. On occasion, it pays homage to its humble beginnings as a pop-up restaurant by welcoming up-and-coming chef-led concepts, from Korean desserts to Malaysian food, into its breezy, laid-back space.

superkhanachicago.com

(773) 661-9028

3059 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

2. Rooh Chicago

Bowls of ROOH indian dishes
Bowls of ROOH indian dishes - roohchicago/Instagram

Seldom do you see a cuisine characterized by deliciously saucy curries and dals all over your Instagram feed, but with a CV of highly regarded contemporary Indian restaurants across the globe, from Mumbai to London to San Francisco, chef Sujan Sarkar aims to change that. Rooh is Sarkar's first Indian concept in Chicago, and was named a finalist in Eater's restaurant of the year the same year it opened in 2019. As the executive chef behind the Michelin-starred Indienne, Sarkar is no stranger to adapting traditional homestyle Indian dishes with the streaks and foams of modernist's touch.

In Hindi, Rooh means soul or spirit. With flavors that balance sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes, the beverage program pays lip service, somewhat ironically, to the ancient Indian healing modality of Ayurveda. The menu combines the flavors of India with global techniques, and dishes are expertly plated. French influence comes through in lamb keema hyderabadi, which is served with potato mousse, green peas, and buttered brioche pao. Tillamook cheddar and shishito, or green pea and goat cheese, bulk out kulcha, a flatbread similar to naan. Gratuitous continental touches like truffle feature unnecessarily, while sweet potato chaat and ghee roast prawn are simple enough recasts to recall their South Asian roots.

roohchicago.com

(312) 809-6964

736 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661

1. Maharaj Chicago

butter chicken naan and rice
butter chicken naan and rice - _withlovechicago/Instagram

Mahraj Chicago wins major points for ambiance. Refreshingly, there are no white tablecloths at this downtown Indian grill on State Street in Chicago's Loop. Relax into its stylish, contemporary vibe, with red metal chairs popping against saffron-colored walls, and Edison bulb pendant lamps dangling from the ceiling. For a more authentic experience, skip the chairs and take a seat on a charpai, a traditional Indian daybed with a woven seat topped with cushioning tapestry pillows. This style of seating is traditional in India at inexpensive roadside restaurants called Dhabas.

Despite the eclectic seating, the food here is standard Indian-American fare, amplified with flourishes like housemade yogurt garnishing much of the dishes you'll enjoy. Chef Tirsha Shrestha cut his teeth cooking at a five-star restaurant in Goa before relocating to the Midwest, and emphasizes fresh spices in elevating the flavor of his dishes. A favorite amongst diners is the tandoori grill special, big enough to split amongst friends, or the seekh kebab: ground lamb seasoned with fresh cilantro, cumin, and minced onion, then barbecued on skewers in the clay oven.

Maharaj Chicago has one of the largest selections of flavored flatbreads we've found that extend well beyond garlic naan, like podina parantha: a whole wheat flatbread laminated with butter and layered with fresh mint, coconut, and dried cherries. This is the place to go if you want classic Nepalese and South Indian flavors in a trendy environment.

maharaj-chicago.com

(312) 761-9963

333 S State St Unit C13, Chicago, IL 60604

Methodology

Bowl of curry and rice
Bowl of curry and rice - Gmvozd/Getty Images

We're no strangers to Chicago's South Asian food scene, but it would be impossible (and ill-advised) to taste every single saag paneer from the South Side up to the North Shore. To come up with our rankings outside of our favorites, we started by identifying the most popular Indian (or Indian-inspired) restaurants. This was based on which restaurants received the most customer reviews on Google. But popular doesn't necessarily mean delicious (hello, tourist traps and Loop locales). To ensure our list was well-loved, each restaurant had to receive four or more out of five stars on Google.

Next, we took a peek at the menu. In addition to the tried-and-true Western staples like butter chicken and biryani, we hunted for creativity. Who was serving the most interesting flavor of kulcha? Where are any restaurants serving up a raita with house-made yogurt? And lastly, what did customers have to say about the quality of the food on Yelp and Google? Lastly, service and atmosphere were considered based on customer feedback, as it's one thing to have a favorite takeout spot, but another to have a meal in a restaurant that feels cozy and hospitable.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.