The lessons a meal can teach you sometimes far exceed the offerings on the menu.
Khan BBQ is a Pakistani restaurant on Devon Avenue in the heart of Chicago’s Desi neighborhood. Over 140,000 immigrants from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have made the community one of the better dining destinations in the city. The restaurant has few flaws when it comes to the food, in fact several of their offerings are simply as good as it gets.
Get a salad simply dressed with fresh limes, a mango lassi for quaffing, some platters of the cooked-to-order flat breads (I love the simple naan), a rice dish (frontier chicken rice is the way to go) and then pile on the braised, grilled and tandoor-roasted dishes. Khan operates two large tandoors simultaneously, maintaining the preferred heat at around 800 to 900 degrees so the meats are charred and perfectly textured, with a moist and delicate interior. The tandoori chicken is exemplary for that very reason, perfectly charred chunks of flaming orange-tinted chicken, ideal for dousing with the squeeze bottles of yogurt-mint and tamarind sauces that are perched on every table.
There are six goat dishes on the menu and they all are superbly crafted. This is a great place to take a newcomer to enjoy the mild, delicate and deeply flavored meat that the world loves above all others, the meat that American palates are just warming up to. The barnyard-y quality so prevalent in most restaurants’ goat dishes is completely absent here. The goat korma is a braised dish, served in the classic sauce comprised of the house masala, chiles and pureed caramelized onions. It’s beyond addictive and the sauce is downright drinkable.
The Seekh Kebab is a masterpiece. The forcemeat is ground twice, seasoned perfectly, delicately placed on 5-foot long skewers and quickly fired in the tandoor. If the dish isn’t perfect it falls apart before it’s even cooked or arrives at the table as a tough and mealy overcooked mess. Here the Seekh Kebab is moist, bouncy, melting, spicy and meaty all at the same time.
Chicken Boti are marinated boneless chicken thighs that arrive seductively charred and doused with minty yogurt sauce. I dare you to order just one platter. The problem here at Khan is arriving with only a friend or two in tow. Bring a large group—six or eight is perfect—that way you can order everything you care to try. Trust me, you will order seconds of many of the dishes, the cooking itself is that flawless.
The Daal, Chana Masala and other pulses made with farinaceous foods are superb. I would put any of the chickpea based dishes here up against others in restaurants boasting higher prices and more of the trappings of commercial western restaurant service, which brings me to the most important part of all. I’m tired of people calling restaurants like this ‘dives’ or ‘hole in the wall’ eateries. The owners of this place worked for years saving enough up to open this business, and they have spent nearly 40 years serving great food, feeding people who didn’t have the money to pay, and being a beacon in the community, a place for new immigrants to our shores to enjoy the warm loving hug of familiar food. This restaurant is everything a restaurant is supposed to be. And it should be honored that way. Even more importantly, Khan BBQ wants to make you feel at home and loved too. The language spoken here is different than yours, the regulars wear clothes that might not be what’s in your closet, and there are Muslim prayers on the walls. And while I go to restaurants to eat, the lessons a meal can teach you sometimes far exceed the offerings on the menu. We are all in this world together; sharing a meal is the beginning of something bigger.
Khan BBQ also offers catering, and live music is often playing in the larger dining room. To-go orders get as much love as meals served on premise. The place is open 7 days a week, hours, phone number and location can be found at www.khanbbq.net.
Khan BBQ, 2401 West Devon Ave., 773-274-8600