Devon Avenue runs from east to west across the north side of Chicago at 6400 north, and there’s a stretch of the street that could be called the Little India of Chicago. Also known as the “Desi corridor,” this multi-block section of Devon offers a gastronomic adventure for which the fifty-minute commute from downtown is definitely worthwhile. To get to Devon Avenue from our campus, take the Red line to the Loyola station, then take the 155 bus westbound to Kedzie. Hop off and at Devon and Rockwell.
The perfect day for my trip to Devon came on a sunny yet frosty Sunday morning. A friend of mine from India has recommended visiting the area for a while and that day, I felt that it was time for me to take her well-informed advice. Two friends were visiting Chicago from back home in Ecuador and I knew both friends would prefer venturing off to find a place to eat on Devon over Michigan Ave.
Devon was a feast of smells. Curry lingered in the air, mingling with other spice smells I couldn’t identify. My mouth started to salivate as the occasional breeze brought a strong wave of delicious food smells. The storefronts were all colorful and the street was busy with people. Families walked together: the baby in the carriage, grandma, dad, mom — the entire crew, it appeared, all carrying big shopping bags. As we walked, people came in and out of the stores and restaurants on the avenue. It was almost lunchtime and the hunger for food could be felt in the street.
One of my friends is vegetarian, so we decided to try a vegetarian place named Uru Swati (2629 W. Devon) The young man who seated us was very friendly and attentive. With his help and the recommendations of my friend (who had been to this restaurant before), we ordered two dishes. The first one was a masala dosa, a lentil and rice crepe served with spiced potatoes. It was rich in flavor and went beautifully with a lentil-based stew called sambhar, served with chutney.
The second phase of our meal was a kind of Indian tapas degustation called ras puri with undhiyu. The ras puri was a small preview of a series of other dishes offered in the restaurant, including some spicy sauces that were a perfect match with the naan bread we ordered on the side. The series of dishes combined in the ras puri included chana masala (chickpeas in savory curry), alu gobi (cauliflower and potatoes in dry spices), and a baigan bhartha (slow-smoked and stewed eggplant curry.) Both dishes provided were more than enough food for three people; we were all satisfied with the cultural journey the dished provided for us, especially for the cheap price of 12 dollars per person.
After the main meal, we were all craving a sweet palate cleanser and a walk to digest our meal. We took a stroll towards a pastry shop and restaurant called Sukhadia’s (2559 W. Devon) and ordered one coconut burfi to share between the three of us. A coconut burfee is basically a caramelized cube of coconut that actually made me think of an Ecuadorian dessert I know called “cocada.” Our sweet indulgence contained enough sugar to have us all feeling more than satisfied.
On our way back, sitting in the bus headed toward the Loyola stop, I could not help but feel the sense of home the meal left me with. The sense of family neighborhood combined with a full tummy, made me recall the sensation of leaving my grandma’s house after a plentiful and familiar meal. What else could I ask for from a chilly Saturday? My Indian meal had really been food for the soul.
As it is said back home, “Barriga llena, corazon contento.” Full stomach, happy heart.