Best Pakistani food in Chicago

We've rounded up the best Chicago restaurants for kebabs, goat chops, curry and other Pakistani food

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Photograph: Wendell Remington

Chopanis one of the best Chicago restaurants for Pakistani food.

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Photograph: Grace Wiley

Bismillah is one of the best Chicago restaurants for Pakistani food.

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Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

Khan BBQ Restaurant is one of the best Chicago restaurants for Pakistani food.

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Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

Sabri Nihari is one of the best Chicago restaurants for Pakistani food.

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Shan Foods is one of the best Chicago restaurants for Pakistani food.

Devon Avenue's Indian restaurants may get all the attention, but we also love the Pakistani spots you'll find in the neighborhood—all of our favorites are clustered together, with the exception of Shan Food and Restaurant, a delicious part market, part restaurant in Uptown. Go for a full dinner of curry or make it a crawl and pick up barbecue at one place or cheap bites at another, but no matter what you pick, these are the best restaurants for Pakistani fare in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best Chicago restaurants

Best Pakistani food in Chicago

Bismillah

The name of this restaurant loosely translates as “with the guidance of God,” which is apt, because even though there’s a drab cabbie-joint vibe in the dining room, the dishes coming out of the kitchen are divine. Blessed plates include keema, minced beef bathed in rich, brown butter gravy perfumed with ginger and cardamom, and chapli, kebabs studded with coriander seeds and fired up with green chilies. Minced chicken kebabs sport a crispy crust and a succulent interior.

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West Rogers Park

Chopal Kabab & Steak

You’ll often find members of the local Indo-Pak community sitting on the ornate and brightly colored furniture here, discussing what appear to be important matters. But we know they’re chatting about how incredible the food is: lentils rife with roasted garlic; lemon-kissed rapini; fiery chunks of chile chicken; and delicious, tender goat chops. Quell the heat with the amazing Chopal lassi, and refrain from bringing wine or beer out of respect for the devout Muslim staff and diners.

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Devon Avenue

Khan B.B.Q.

Regulars still recall the previous location that engulfed Khan 1.0 in a charcoal-sparked fire, while newcomers seem puzzled by the brusque staff and the glaring florescent lights. Never a place for a romantic rendezvous, Khan has always divulged its specialty in its name: “B.B.Q.,” specifically marinated, charred-edge, tandoor-cooked chicken chunks (boti) and juicy sausage-shaped ground-beef patties (seekh kebab). Simple sides like soupy lentils flavored with fenugreek or creamy spinach with potato chunks are as great (and cheap) as they were at the old Khan, proving that consistency brings loyalty more than frills.

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Devon Avenue

Sabri Nihari

Be warned that the namesake dish, nehari, a spicy Pakistani pot roast, will induce cravings so strong you’ll consider relocating to Devon. First-timers should know that the half-inch oil slick atop the gingery gravy is supposed to be there; it’s ghee (clarified butter) and should be stirred in before ladling the comfort food onto fluffy rice. For a complete meal, order the frontier chicken and use garlicky naan to sop up the cumin- and chili-laced yellow dal.

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Devon Avenue

Shan Food and Restaurant

It’s easy to link Indian and Pakistani food, but it’s not easy to tie a dusty minimart to a restaurant. Blame it on convenience; hell, if you’re selling the ingredients, why not cook with them? In the back of this bustling market are some scattered tables and a wall menu touting authentic Pakistani favorites such as frontier chicken, tongue-searing aloo palak (creamy spinach and potatoes) and belly-warming curried dal (lentils). Don’t miss the huge selection of glass-encased sweets, where you can grab a sugar rush to go.

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Uptown

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