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Photograph: Rachel Bires

The 14 best Indian restaurants in Chicago

Go globetrotting with the best South Asian restaurants in Chicago

Written by
Time Out editors
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When you ask locals about the best Indian restaurants in Chicago, chances are they'll give you two answers: A beloved traditional spot that's been around for ages as well as a new-wave restaurant that opened in the past five years. Both have merit, so plan to traverse the city in search of decadent curries, flaky paratha and top-notch vegetarian dishes. We should note up front, too, that this list includes several South Asian cuisines, from Pakistani and Nepalese to Indian. There's plenty to choose from, and as an added bonus, most of these spots double as some of the best delivery restaurants in Chicago. So whether you're looking for veggie-stuffed momos, soul-soothing biryani or a butter chicken calzone (really), the best Indian restaurants in Chicago have you covered.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best Chicago restaurants

Best Indian restaurants in Chicago

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • West Ridge
  • price 1 of 4

When we close our eyes, we can almost picture the large crowd gathered around the bustling counter of this Indo-Pak spot on Devon Avenue. While you can't get that at the moment, you can get your Ghareeb Nawaz fix through takeout and delivery (easier still with additional locations in University Village and Lombard). The soothing dal gosht lentil is loaded with bay leaves and chili peppers, and the chili chicken is fiery and fragrant. No matter what you order, you’ll get your money’s worth—most menu items ring up well under $10.

  • Restaurants
  • River West/West Town

Named for a mythical weapon used by the Hindu God of Thunder, Vajra illuminates the diminutive yet diverse country of Nepal. Do yourself a favor and spring for the dishes you may not recognize, like the dilliwala aalu tikka, a duo of crispy mashed potato cakes that are stuffed with spiced lentils. Skip dessert in favor of a to-go cocktail or two from head bartender Juanjo Pulgarin, who incorporates ingredients like raw honey shrub, truffled maple syrup and star fruit syrup.

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  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Wicker Park
  • price 2 of 4

This Wicker Park mainstay showcases Nepalese cooking with dishes such as palungo ko saag, whole spinach leaves sautéed with caramelized garlic and coated in a trinity of seeds (fenugreek, mustard and cumin). The kitchen doesn't slack when it comes to Indian cuisine either (the peppery biryani is very solid), but ignoring the Nepalese dishes here is like going to a beer bar and ordering wine.

4. The Spice Room

When you need excellent Indian food delivered straight to your door in an hour or less, The Spice Room never disappoints. Rife with classics, the menu covers a lot of ground—from veg korma and lamb-stuffed samosas to haryali chicken with green chilis. The vegetarian options are commendable, too, with both okra and mushroom masala as well as a stellar aloo gobi, an amber-hued dish that finds cauliflower and potatoes coated in rich spices. For dessert, the gulab jamun are not to be missed—golfball-sized balls of fried dough are saturated in sugary syrup.

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  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • West Loop

Indian cuisine gets the fine-dining treatment at ROOH, a Chicago import with locations in New York and San Francisco. The West Loop outpost offers creative takes on classic Indian fare, like the butter chicken with red pepper makhani, fenugreek and butter powder. There's plenty here for vegetarians, too, with options like the baked malai mushroom and the avocado and green chickpea bhel. Or nix the guesswork and order the Culinary Journey, a prix fixe tasting menu that traverses various regions of India—two beverage pairings included.

6. Rangoli

The recently expanded Rangoli has locations in both Wicker Park and Lincoln Park, stretching the delivery radius for fans of the restaurant's extensive menu. Spice fiends must order the bagara baingan, which finds tender young eggplant swimming in a wonderfully nutty gravy that's teeming with whole red chilis. A bite of the butter naan will temper your palate before you reach for a bite of the tarka dal, a dish that comprises hearty yellow lentils stewed with tomatoes and curry leaves.

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  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

Before you get to know this River North restaurant, you must first meet its owner, Rohini Dey, a former economist and consultant who doubles as a women's activist. Dey recently relaunched Vermilion with a revamped menu and bright new interior. The kitchen blends Indian and Latin cuisines to create wow-worthy dishes like the Venezuelan arepas duck vindaloo with pomegranate molasses and curry leaf mango. Long-time fans will be happy to see that the tiffin "pindi" butter chicken and tandoori skirt steak are still on the menu.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • West Ridge
  • price 1 of 4

Not sure what to order at this Devon vegetarian standout? Try the crispy, two-foot-long paper dosa filled with potatoes seasoned with mustard seed and cumin; order it “masala” and get a smear of tangy chutney. Then try the Swati samosa chaat, a smashed potato pocket drenched in silky yogurt, tamarind chutney and subtly spicy “salsa.” Not sold on those dishes? Order anything and you’re bound to get fresh, flavorful, meat-free eats for a good price.

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  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Logan Square

Love chai? There are few better places to sip the aromatic, spice-infused beverage than Chia Chai: get yours flavored with dark chocolate, turmeric, blueberry or lavender—the possibilities are nearly endless. On the food front, the Nepali and Indian-influenced eats are hearty and cozy. The masala chicken pie is bursting with curry, and the pani puri is served with an addictive tamarind sauce. But no order is complete without a gaggle of veggie momos stuffed with red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, kale and onions.

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Ukrainian Village
  • price 1 of 4

If you don't mind breaking with tradition, there's plenty to love about this new-wave beer bar from Heisler Hospitality (Estereo, Sportsman's Club, Queen Mary Tavern). The chicken tikka kati roll is as big as a burrito, the wings are tossed in manchurian sauce and the frozen mango lassi is spiked with rum. Rein it in with a beautifully classic samosa or an order of the silky buttered paneer.

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  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Loop
  • price 1 of 4

The name may be cutesy, but at Naansense, a group of experienced chefs are serving fun, delicious takes on Indian cuisine. Led by chefs Hiran Patel (Veerasway, Lafayette) and Sahil Singh (Veerasway), the fast-casual lunch spot offers naan sandwiches and salads. It's a different take on Indian, to be sure, but the spicy, flavorful sauces and warm, pliant naan are as great as those you'd find at any top Indian spot in town.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Logan Square

Let's get something out of the way up front: Superkhana International is not your typical, by-the-books Indian restaurant. Though chefs Yoshi Yamada and Zeeshan Shah and partner Jason Hammel (Lula Cafe) pull from traditional recipes and preparations, the menu is void of potato packed samosas and saucy chicken tikka masala. Instead, the star of the show is a butter chicken calzone, a savory pastry pocket stuffed with chicken swimming in a spiced tomato sauce. Toss in an order of chili-cheese naan for good measure. The booze offerings are just as interesting, with a collection of to-go cocktails like the pineapple-mint daiquiri with house-spiced rum.

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  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • West Ridge
  • price 1 of 4

Carnivores seem to think that without meat on their plate they’d starve. But this 100 percent vegetarian South Indian spot puts an end to that theory with its famous dosa—a gigantic cumin-, potato- and onion-filled rice and lentil crêpe that comes in a dozen varieties. Another good bet is the “Madras-style” okra curry that regulars swear by.

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • West Ridge
  • price 1 of 4

The meat-loving sibling of Udupi Palace, this spot serves up crispy vegetable pakoras, massive rounds of bubbly naan, a great bhindi masala (okra sautéed with onions and tomatoes) and a chicken tikka masala dripping in sauce that’s predictably tame (the tablecloths are a dead giveaway) but fiery upon request. Indian beer is tempting, but nothing’s going to cool your mouth like a creamy mango lassi.

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