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Restaurant Fri Apr 10 2009

Chutney Joe's: Indian on State Street

Rural food in India seems simple and lean. Chutney Joe's, an instruct-them-how-to-assemble-your-meal-at-the-counter type of place, just South of the Loop, doesn't claim to be rural food so far as I know, but it does remind me of that. Their Web site indicates an interest in wanting to change from "Americanized Indian food," and the chickpea masala held especially true to this on my visit. The flavors could be tighter and more mingled, but the essence feels refreshingly simple and lean.

The garbanzo masala, as they call it, isn't oil-laden like so many that I've had eating out in Chicago. It feels brothy, light and simple, and the sauce softly warmed and soothed the lining of my mouth. The chickpeas resisted my bite at first, and then crumpled without hesitation. The gobi potatoes, or cauliflower and potatoes, didn't include diced potatoes, as the online menu suggests, but instead whole, skinned, oval-shaped potatoes, as I probably would have preferred anyway. These potatoes were tender and firm, with a soft touch of oil. The cauliflower still held a bit of its snap. If you "create a meal" of it, like I did, you get your choice of basmati rice or one flat bread. I chose a soft, tender and nicely textured whole wheat flatbread that "should" be vegan, I was told (the other bread options had dairy). Other items are clearly identified as vegan on the menu, and they offer non-vegetarian and other vegetarian items, as well.

Photos of, presumably, India hang on the wall. In one, small storefronts fade off into the end of a narrow road, while a cycle rickshaw waits empty in the street. Another photo shows a well maintained fine garden with loads of green plant leaves having bright yellow spots - crotons perhaps. In yet another, barrels filled with what look like foodstuffs fill some small, enclosed space.

On a bicycle, Chutney Joe's is close enough for lunch for those working in the Loop who ride to work. I plan to return to try the samosas. The man who took my order at the counter had been pushing them. As he later chatted up the customers, he said something like this to one of them: "I know I forced the samosa on you. Do you want your money back?" The customer played along, asking for just ten percent off their next order. The customer seemed to like his samosa, telling how the "first one disappeared." Chutney, of course, would be brilliant for these. I tried the mango chutney, which was thick and sweet with perhaps just a touch of sour.

511 S. State St., (312) 341-9755


bob / April 10, 2009 1:11 PM

i really want to like this place. the owner was kind and friendly. the nan was great. the spinach in the palak paneer, however, tasted overwhelmingly like it had been frozen. kind of like frozen creamed spinach. that definitely needs work.

DJ Shelly / April 22, 2009 3:14 AM

I've eaten at Chutney Joe's a couple of times now and would definitely recommend it for someone looking for good Indian Food in the south loop. In case anyone can't figure out where it is, it's just down the street from HWLC next door to Epic Burger. Both places are delicious! :-)

sanya / June 17, 2009 11:58 AM

I was really looking forward to Chutney's Joe, being indian and always look for authentic indian food that isn't stereotypically oil laden. Unfortunately, I was highly disappointed.

Unlike a lot of indians I do like spicy food but the amount of chillies used here is outrageous. Even with all of their recommendatinos to tone down the spice, I left with my ears ringing. THe food itself is uninspiring.
Besides the chilles, there really isn't much to talk about here.

I won't be returning.

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