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Bar Goa bar
Photograph: Courtesy Bar Goa

Escape to the “Ibiza of India” at Bar Goa

Here’s how Manish and Rina Mallick created a restaurant inspired by Goa, the Indian state famous for its nightlife and white sand beaches.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp

As a teenager growing up in Mumbai, restaurateur Manish Mallick used to spend the summer working for his brother’s construction company in Goa, a small state on India’s southwestern coast. All that hard work wasn’t so bad, though, considering he got to spend his spare time exploring Goa’s vacation-worthy attractions—like white sand beaches, Portuguese-inflected cuisine and a thrumming nightlife scene that draws comparisons to other tropical hotspots across the world.

“I have such an affinity for it, it’s so much fun,” Mallick says. “It’s called the Ibiza of India, or the Ibiza of Asia.” (You’ll also hear it referred to as the Miami or Hawaii of India, depending on who you ask.)

Years later, Mallick brought his wife, Rina, to Goa on vacation, and she loved the region just as much as her husband. The couple, who also own the Indian restaurant ROOH Chicago in the West Loop, decided to capture the spirit of Goa in Chicago by opening Bar Goa, a restaurant and bar in River North dedicated to emulating the region’s unique feel. 

Walking into Bar Goa, the Mallicks want you to feel like you’ve been plucked from the streets of Chicago and thrown into a beachy paradise: Tropical wallpaper, surfboards and plant life cover the walls, and reggae music (or EDM, depending on the night) set a club-like feel, while comedy nights and a rotating list of DJ capture glimpses of Goa’s thriving nightlife scene. Rina Mallick, who spearheaded the restaurant’s design, described modeling Bar Goa after a nightclub with private rooms that lead directly to the dance floor.

“It was this crazy, fun vibe,” she says. “That’s the kind of ambiance we wanted to create. Like, it’s not just a restaurant, it’s a place where you’re going to go and have a great time.”

Aside from the fun atmosphere, the most transportive aspect of Bar Goa might be the menu, a roving exploration of Goa’s culinary traditions. The state’s coastal location anchors its fragrant, seafood-heavy cuisine, with intersecting influences from Portugal (which colonized the region for centuries, bringing with it ingredients like potatoes, cashews, chilis and pork) as well as the broader Konkan region of India. Head chef Sahil Sethi, who also grew up in India, traveled to Goa to research some of its iconic dishes to serve at the restaurant—delicacies like tangy prawn balchao, which coats the shrimp in a spicy brine of chilis, spices, garlic and vinegar, or fluffy poi bread and fiery pork vindaloo.  

True to its nightlife-inspired nature, Bar Goa’s cuisine is best enjoyed with a drink in hand. Beverage consultant Allie Kim’s cocktail list takes a detailed look at the region’s drinking culture, from sippers made with ghee-washed Goan gin to the ChicaGOAN Handshake, which serves a shot of feni, a bracing cashew brandy made in Goa, alongside Spiteful Brewing’s tangerine radler. Not into shots? Try ordering feni “OG style” with Limca lemon-lime soda, made the way that Manish Mallick used to drink it back when he was working in Goan construction. 

“Allie went through with so much minutia of details. … These are all very nuanced things that are typical for going out in India,” he explains.

You can get a taste of Bar Goa at the restaurant’s outpost inside of Time Out Market Chicago, where you’ll find dishes like jicama-pineapple slaw-topped pork vindaloo sliders and shrimp balchao “pao’ boys,” which come with a side of peri–peri fries. Want to wash that all down with a drink? Swing by Time Out Market Bar to pair your meal with cocktails like the Sunburn, made with Paul John Nirvana whisky (made in Goa), China-China liqueur, hibiscus grenadine, rose water, lemon and foam.  

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