Chicago's Best Indian Food, Bar Naan

If you're looking for a top-notch Indian meal in Chicago, Devon Avenue is the default. The far-north street is lined with family-owned restaurants dishing out terrific tandoori, tikka, vindaloo, and more. But, Devon isn't the only area home to fare that'll satisfy your samosa-lovin' belly.
We looked there and beyond to put together this list of Indian restaurants that are worth your hard-earned cash. From Streeterville to Evanston, find everything from unbeatable lunch deals (hello, buffet!) to low-cal dishes to the spiciest curries around. Tandoori-licious!
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Photographed by Grace Willis.
India House
If you work in River North, the lunch buffet at this newly remodeled restaurant will quench a craving for North Indian cuisine. And, if you’re unfamiliar with Indian food, it’s a great way to try it all. For $17, you get unlimited naan and sizzling hot tandoori chicken brought to the table and seemingly endless options at the buffet, including samosas, about 10 types of curries, an excellent chicken tikka masala, matta paneer (cottage cheese and peas in a flavorful sauce), and so much more. For dessert, head straight to the mango kulfi, an Indian ice cream.

India House, 59 West Grand Avenue (at Dearborn Street); 312-645-9500.
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Photographed by Grace Willis.
Cumin
Newer than most of the picks on this list, Cumin is sure to be packed with whatever hipsters remain in Wicker Park — but don’t write it off. Opened in 2010 by two Nepalese brothers, Cumin divides its menu between Nepalese and Indian fare, nailing dishes like samosa chaat and sambar, a hearty vegetable soup with a complex array of spices. With 19 vegetable entrees, this is a terrific place to take your vegetarian pals, while meat eaters will swoon over plates like the lamb madras, a creamy curry-based dish from South India. North Indian food is also well-represented.

Cumin, 1414 North Milwaukee Avenue (at Wood Street); 773-342-1414.
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Photographed by Grace Willis.
Hema's Kitchen
Once upon a time, Hema’s was a tiny hidden gem just off of Devon. But, when the masses discovered owner Hema Potla’s flaky samosas and complex curries, the restaurant outgrew its cramped quarters, moving to a bigger, shinier location on the main drag. What the new place lacks in charm, it makes up for with a tandoor oven (something the first Hema’s never had room for); the yogurt-marinated tandoori chicken is tender and spiced just right. There’s also a Lincoln Park location, but try to hit the one up north; the food is a little more nuanced. Both spots are BYOB.

Hema’s Kitchen, 2439 West Devon Avenue (at Artesian Avenue); 773-338-1627; 2411 North Clark Street (at Fullerton Avenue); 773-529-1705.
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Photographed by Grace Willis.
Jaipur
As a new restaurant opens on Randolph Row practically every day, don’t overlook the ones that were there all along. Jaipur, rocking Indian food since 2008, offers fresh and non-greasy fare that’s nicely spiced. Chicken dishes are our favorite here; from the korma (boneless bird in a cashew curry) to the makhani (tandoori chicken cooked in butter with fresh tomato puree), the meat is moist and full of flavor. Prices are more expensive than farther north Indian restaurants, but on par with the neighborhood.

Jaipur, 847 West Randolph Street (between Peoria and Green streets); 312-526-3655.
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Photographed by Grace Willis.
Masala by Marigold
To the extreme despair of our naan-loving stomachs, Marigold — one of Chicago's best Indian restaurants, first in Uptown, then in Andersonville — closed for good in August. But, fellow fans should scurry on over to the food court in the basement of the Chase Building (which we promise is way nicer than a basement food court sounds) for a taste of Masala by Marigold, the Marigold folks' fast-casual spot. Sure, the food's served cafeteria style, but the savory curries, crisp samosas, and puffy naan don't suffer at all. Don’t work in the Loop? There are also shiny new locations in Prentice Women's Hospital and at UIC.

Masala by Marigold, multiple locations.
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Photographed by Grace Willis.
Mysore Woodlands
Dosas — traditional South Indian rice and lentil crepes — are the standout dish at this vegetarian spot on Devon, where you’ll find more than a dozen varieties. Our favorite? A simple butter version served with coconut chutney, a staple of South Indian cuisine. For a full meal, start with the dhaivada, an order of impossibly light fried lentil doughnuts dipped in yogurt, and end with carrot halwa, grated carrots sweetened with honey, and butter. And, if you’re dining in, bring a bottle. Mysore is BYOB.

Mysore Woodlands, 2548 West Devon Avenue (at Rockwell Street); 773-338-8160.
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Photographed by Grace Willis.
Paprika
Can you trust an Indian restaurant next to an L.A. tan in a Lincoln Square strip mall? In a word, yes. The small, family-owned BYOB puts a ton of care into its food — enough to be included in the 2013 Michelin Guide and on a recent episode of Check, Please!, causing a surge of customers at a spot where it used to be easy to snag a table (“reservations recommended,” reads the web site). We love the signature paprika tandoori chicken and the malai kofta, veggie-and-cheese balls in a creamy, sweet curry. The universal favorite here is kheer for dessert — the Indian rice pudding packs in raisins, almonds, and pistachios.

Paprika, 2547 West Lawrence Avenue (at Rockwell Street); 773-338-4906.
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Photographed by Grace Willis.
Mt. Everest
This Evanston spot is where we got hooked on mango lassis (a thick, smoothie-like drink made with yogurt and mango pulp). It’s also a bit different than other Indian restaurants, serving the mix of Indian and Nepalese dishes you’ll find in the Himalayas. We could also eat the fragrant basmati rice that comes with every meal by itself, but of course it’s even better with dishes like tender lamb curry, spicy chicken vindaloo, or fall-off-the-bone goat meat (from the Nepalese side of the menu). The Chef’s Special appetizer offers a little taste of several traditional dishes, including kababs, samosas, chicken tikka, and a mixed vegetable pakora, an assortment of deep-fried veggies. On Thursdays, get half-price off of all drinks — beer, wine, and mango lassis included.

Mt. Everest, 630 Church Street, Evanston (at Orrington Avenue); 847-491-1069.
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Photographed by Grace Willis.
Uru-Swati
Another all-vegetarian spot on Devon, Uru-Swati’s claim to fame is a two-foot potato-stuffed dosa, perfect for sharing over your first glass of wine (the restaurant’s BYOB, so crack open a bottle…or two). Samosas are delicately fried, the okra’s cooked perfectly, and the mixed veggies come in an awesome curry. Get a side of garlic naan — you won’t be disappointed.

Uru-Swati, 2629 West Devon Avenue (at Talman Avenue); 773-381-1010.
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