Working in Chicago’s Loop is a godsend. Being a city rat, I prefer pedestrian congestion, car horns, cab drivers damn near running over characters who are fixated on their cell phones reading and typing text messages, watching tourists in herd fashion marvelling the skyscrapers, and a plethora of eateries — or rather fooderies — from which to choose. If I am in the mood for being lazy and not trying to conjure up thoughts of what I shall have for dinner, never fear. I can go to a wine and cheese bar, a penthouse set, a boutique lounge, any multitude of ethnic cafes, or any one of countless holes-in-the-wall. With a recent trip to London, UK, I have been in a long-standing mood for Indian food with spices and flavour bursting on my palate. Not that I will endure any more flights to India, but certainly if I want some authentic Indian food, London is the next best place to get some. After that, I can go to Devon Avenue or out to the West Suburbs. And if I am done with work for the day, I have a few selections in the Loop vicinity that I can try. How about that?
So, after work I wandered over to 171 N. Well Street and into Curried for some Indian street food. Remembering Chutney Joe’s, which is in South Loop, I wanted to see if Curried was alike in any similarities. With Wells Street being under some rather aggressive construction and the elevated train running non-stop for the after-five peak hours, there was a bit of a feeling like I was walking down an alley and into some hovel smelling wondrously of curry, cumin, cilantro, and other foodglorious — my second made-up word since starting my food blog — spices. While Chutney Joe’s is not victim of the constant thunder and rumbling from the Brown Line, Purple Line, and Green Line trains, I needed to do a comparison nevertheless.
Not particularly spectacular with ambience, I focused on the real reason I was at Curried. I started with two samosas that ended with me buying six more for later before I left. Simply put, there is not one Indian street food vendor that will botch samosas. Doused with tamarind chutney and cilantro chutney, I was having my way rather nicely with those snacks. Far be it from me to be a samosa prude such that I would use either tamarind or green chutney, so I used both and oh was it a moment of food bliss that I had. I ordered for my entrée choley and tikka masala chicken. The choley reminded me of the chana masala that I have had at Udupi Palace, although not as spicy. Not a problem and my gobbling it with glee was a testament to how much I approved. The tikka masala chicken, granted it was tasty, did have a bit of a tough texture. I think that may have been because the chicken had been swimming in the awesome gravy for some time. Seriously, I could have purchased a jar of that gravy alone for my tilapia, whiting, and shrimp dishes. A note to myself was that I shall stick with the vegetarian dishes only or go to Curried as soon as the door open if I want to get any tender chicken. Armed with some warm tandoori naan and basmati rice, I ate the dish the way I gnarled on many Indian dishes I sated myself with in London. Trains rumbling overhead, tourists taking photos of ruin before correction by construction, suits and skirts rushing to some rendezvous or fleeing from work with a quickness, and me sitting at a table downing a mango lassi with my food. That is what the Chicago Loop is all about. Well, that is just me doing my usual task of stuffing my jaws.
Because Curried has more of a true street food feel, the prices are splendid. The service is top, considering I am almost certain the place experiences its share of self-entitled yardies in suits and skirts from the Financial District. Being high-end in a technical career where I have the privilege of wearing jeans and sandals to work, I was probably a breath of fresh air to enter. Really, I probably was. Have you smelled the air in the Financial District? The mixture of cologne and perfumes could overpower the acrid industrial smell of Gary, Indiana.