I was at Hilal Chaat House today for lunch and met a man who told me that he is from South Africa; specifically, he's from the large Indian population in Johannesburg. When I asked him where one can find South African cooking in Chicago, he told me that there is a place on "Lake and Chestnut". At that point, I had about 5 different tablemates all talking to me at the same time, trying to explain all the different items on the chaat menu. Without thinking about it, I wrote down that information and it wasn't until tonight that I realized that there is no such corner as "Lake and Chestnut". I just looked at my map and wonder if he meant "Chestnut and Lake Shore Drive"? Isn't that where the lunch trucks for the hospital are parked? Could he have been referring to a lunch truck?
Another tablemate volunteered that there is an African restaurant on Bryn Mawr and Winthrop. My South African friend dismissed this immediately and said "ah, but that's West African, not South African". But the thing is: I don't remember ANY African restaurants on that stretch. Waaah!
Hilal is an interesting little shop. Unlike some of the other snacks places on Devon (Raghbog, for instance), everything (including all the munchies and crunchies: the namkeen chavanu + components) is apparently made in-house. After that thread on rice and plov, I just had to try their masoor pulav (basmati and lentils plus little bits of chicken) for $1.99. Great cheap snack! And a large portion too. One of their pakoras enclose a whole small yellow banana pepper. The khawan is excellent: light, fluffy, flavorful. In addition, they have chicken corn soup for .99, samosas, pattis, tepla, sakal palak, diff types of gantiah, papri, idli, kachori, etc. The "formal" list of "prepared" chaat ("dressed" chaat) includes ragda chat, chat papri, aloo chat, samosa chat, bhel puri. They also make their own zalebi (these are those squiggly tangled sticky orange-colored sweets). The owner is wonderful and kindly explained a lot of the snack items to me.
Hilal Chat House
2305 W. Devon
Tel: (773) 262-4001
(south side of Devon, east of Western)
There are easily over a dozen snack houses on Devon. Zim has reported on King Sweets and Tahoora. In addition, there is one slightly north of Devon on Claremont. There's Ujala, Sukhadia, Raghbog next to the new Bombay Chinese...
I guess we could also include places like Annapurna, since they embody a kind of fast food/snack idea. There's also Jai Hind at Washtenaw (?)...
The side streets off Devon are quite interesting. There are all kinds of "unknown" restaurants "hidden" away. A new and intriguing one is called Sheesh Mahal Dhaba, off on Rockwell (to the south).
Another place that must be new is called Ravi Shish Kabab right on Devon. South side of street, about 1 or 2 blocks west of Rockwell.
One of these days, I am going for some Bombay Chinese.
The large "Fruit Supermarket" just west of Western (south side, one business from corner) is now open 24 hours. This information should come in handy for those of you who MUST have methi leaves or tindoora or Indian bitter melon at 3 a.m.! Tindoora are those tiny inch and 1/2 long cucumbers that Zim was considering for a dish during our Keralan dinner. Indian bitter melons are those beautiful "spiny" fruits that look like some strange species of sea cucumbers. I did not see any betel leaves here although they are available at the other stores down the street.
I looked through their dozen or so brands of basmati and found a bag of "soon masoori" among them. I am not sure: but I think that this is the name of a variety of medium-grained "Indian" rice.
Across the street from Katsu (not directly across, but a bit to the east) on Petersen is a place called Rawena (sp?) which is supposedly "Middle-eastern" and has belly-dancing on weekends. Does anyone know about this place?
At Kimball and Petersen is a certain Rancho Luna (Cuban!). Any info?