Best Pakistani food in Chicago
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. 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.
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 lassi, and refrain from bringing wine or beer out of respect for the devout Muslim staff and diners.
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.
Be warned that the namesake dish, nihari, 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.
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.