Years ago some friends had told me about an Indian restaurant in Chicago’s Near North neighbourhood where all the cab drivers congregated. I had followed up on their recommendation to see how the restaurant fared and if I had two words to describe the food they would be “culinary crack.” We’re not talking Indian food for midwest tourists. We’re talking spicy Indian food that raises heat from your scalp. As luck would have it, that restaurant closed. Sigh. But while puttering around Uptown, I passed by a restaurant with cabs in parking lot fashion out front. Shan Restaurant & Grocery at 5060 N. Sheridan Road was where I found another location for some “culinary crack.”
I’d had a rather filling breakfast earlier in the day, so ordered entrées only. My most addictive dish is butter chicken, so that was definitely one main dish I wanted. Not quite as creamy as butter chicken I have had at sit-down Indian restaurants, there was still the spicy flavour that made this my go-to dish when I have Indian food. The other entrée was daal masoor. Instead of brown lentils, these were yellow lentils, spicy the way Indian food should be enjoyed, and now my favourite vegetarian option. With basmati rice and parantha, this lunch left me considering making Shan Restaurant & Grocery my favourite Indian haunt. And I can’t believe I ate all of it, given I was gluttenous during breakfast.
From brief discussion with the server, the restaurant had a bit of an expansion. There is a nice dining area where you’re not sitting on top of other diners. There is nothing appealing about the decor, but if you’re like me, you’ll spend more time looking down at your plate so you won’t really care. I never went into the small grocery store section, but I made a note to do so in the future. However, there is a strong cabbie gathering that frequents the restaurant and I understand why. It seems that a big hint as to whether food has serious authenticity to it is not only tied to the cultural representation enjoying the menu items, but also the large number of cab drivers partaking of the food. Hmm. I think I shall go back while hungry, do some grocery shopping, and then sit for a spell of some curry dish to fuel my “culinary crack” addiction.