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Dish Wed Aug 25 2010

Would Love to Chaat...

King Sweet chaatI moved to Lincoln Square a few months ago after five years in the Ukrainian Village, and while I miss the freshly-baked rye aroma rising from my downstairs neighbors in the old apartment, I've been excited to be so much closer to Devon Street. My recourse for Indian food in the past has consisted mostly of Standard India Restaurant off the Belmont red line stop a few times a year (I still think it's the best buffet south of Rogers Park), or leftover Rajun Cajun a friend would occasionally bring back north from Hyde Park. Once in a blue moon, the long trek would be made to Canada, er, Devon Street (mostly to the now-closed Bahbi's Kitchen) if a car and willing driver could be found. Moving close to the intersection Lincoln and Montrose, I was pleased to realize I was within Grubhub range of some of the good stuff up north -- as well as to see two Indian restaurants within walking distance, one with a snack-friendly menu. But it's been two months since I've moved in, four months since Delhi 6 started offering a well-received snack-centric Indian menu, and sadly now, a few weeks since it's closed up shop in favor of an event catering service, according to its website.

I never got a chance to try Delhi 6's pani puri or papri chaat, despite reading enough about these dishes to get the delicious whiff of a food fad. "Chaat" refers to a broad range of savory snacks (the best kind of snacks?) -- sort of Indian or Pakistani street-food, I guess, if you want to glom the idea onto yet another culinary craze. Veerasway is offering a Bindi chaat fry appetizer, and Vermilion has juhu ki pani puri on its tapas listing, if that's any indication of a trend.

But like all trends, chaat has a more traditional, if less flashy home-base. And as luck would have it, I walked right through it a few weekends ago after exploring the Newgard Neighbors Sale and working up just enough of a sweat that snacks were in order. Not quite hungry enough for lunch, not quite full enough to just grab a lassi to go, my fellow yard-saler and I wandered into King Sweets, on Devon Avenue -- mostly because we happened to park my car right in front of it and a little squinting into the windows confirmed that they had more to offer than sweets alone.

King SweetsWe were the lone customers when we stepped inside the cool, white-tiled interior -- reminiscent of a small-scale franchisee, though without any corporate trappings. Or any atmospheric trappings at all, really. Not a problem, we were focused on the snacks -- and I was incredibly pleased to see a portion of the above-the-counter menu handily labeled, "Snacks"! And featuring both pani puri and papri chaat. Not quite remembering which was which, or really what either of them entailed, I stepped up and ordered papri chaat and a mango lassi. And it awesome. King Sweets' papri chaat, similar to what Delhi 6's must have been, was a styrofoam plate of light-as-air fried and broken shards of dough topped with minced sweet onion, cubed cooked potatoes, chickpeas, a heavy dash of some sort of hot-and-sweet spice mix, and doused in a dollop of thin, sour yogurt. I kept finding a new flavor or texture every time I took a bite -- the bite of the onion, the tang of the yogurt, the sugary heat of the spice mix, the fried dough yielding softly as it melted in the sauce. My pal ordered a few samosas, only to be told they'd already run out for the day, and in a moment of panic instead ordered what the sari-clad woman who'd entered after us suggested -- some sort of dense, floury crepe with scallions, some sort of soft, spicy, fried chicken (or chickpea?) patty, and a plate of yogurt with a few spicy, pickled vegetables. Also, delicious. And exactly the right amount of food for a hot day between meals.

King Sweets is hardly the only chaat-purveyor on Devon Avenue -- Uru-Swati, Sukhadia and Annapurna, all also on Devon, are names I've run across as well. I wish there was still a more walk-able option in my new neighborhood -- but honestly, for a quick bus ride or jaunt in the car, chaat would be worth the trip.

King Sweets
2308 W. Devon Avenue

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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