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International Flavor, Chicago-style

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If you want the flavor of India without leaving America then Devon Avenue (Chicago) is the place to hang out in. It is a street that is a true melting pot of America. It starts with the Jewish quarters, followed by a few blocks of Indian stores and resturants that smoothly meld with those of Bangladesh and Pakistan descent.

Parking in Devon Avenue is truely a South Asian experience- double parking is a norm and I have yet to hear about someone getting ticketed for doing it, parallel parking can be tricky business as some smart South Asian alec might sneak in just as you are trying back into the parking slot ( it happened to me) or you would find yourself screaming along with other strangers at some driver who would be harressing another driver on the road.

These experiences of minor road rage and deliberate break of traffic rules which would raise my hackles on a normal American road are however looked upon with nostalgic fondness. The street itself could be one of the strip malls of India and reminds me of a popular shopping center back in Delhi called Karol Bagh.

In many ways Devon Avenue is a replica of Karol Bagh thronged with flashy saree shops and somewhat shabby music stores which incidentally sell pirated South Asian music and grocery stores which are cheaper and carry variety of fruits and vegetables not easily found in a regular American grocery store.

Devon Avenue is a magnet of cultural diversity which in its calm, smooth functionality does not reflect the tensions that surround the various countries of the Indian subcontinent. Except when the Indian and Pakistan independence day celebrations begin. That’s when one would find cars cruising the streets with respective flags and patriotic songs blaring pass by but then again one hardly hears of any violent incidents happening between the two communities.

Immigrants here whether from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh welcome a fellow South Asian with the typical hospitality and warmth that makes one feel as if they have returned to their roots.

Especially when it comes to bargaining in shops in the usual Asian manner of saying – “See, we’ve bought so much how about rounding it off to a 40$?” or complimenting the ethnic dishes in a way that would have the manager puffing his chest and the best line would be “I wish my wife could cook like this”, conveniently forgetting that daily partaking of this kind of rich food would lead to moderate amount of weight gain and a huge investment in anti-reflux medicines.

The beauty of Chicago lies in it’s cutural diversity and is the best place for a weekend sojourn. Apart from Devon Ave, you have Chinatown, Koreatown, and much more. We sampled the taste of South Asian delights, shopped at the magnificent mile, were awestruck by the marine section in the Shedd Aquariuim and finally rounded the trip off by watching a late night digital show of Star Wars-The Revenge of the Sith.

Despite its horrendous peak hour traffic jams, Chicago is one of my favourite cities as it is a place I get the best that America has to offer with a flavor of curry and chopsticks when homesickness takes root.

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About Deepti Lamba


    Thanks for the offer, SP. who knows where I might be next?

    This post makes me hungry.

  • SKI, if you are ever this side of town let us know we’d take you for the best Shashi Korma ever.

  • Bennett, I don’t think I did justice to Chicago in my post. That city has so much to offer, currently my favourite in Chicago is Sue (the dinosaur) who has been re-buried at the Field Museum.

  • I’m in Chicago now – and hankering for some Indian food – methinks I’ll hop over to “Viceroy of India” or “Sher-e-Punjab” on Devon Ave:)


    Thankfully, this time around I am in a city with lots of ethnice food choices. When I live deepinaharta, the choices were fastfood, MExican or Steak. Indian food was a 6 hour roundtrip, but worth every bite. Unfortunately, SP’s post means I have to get up and drive crosstown to get some shahi korma, pakoras, and karahi gosht.

  • Bennett

    Yet another reason to STOP, get the hell out of O’Hare, and spend some time in the windy city. Really nice piece swingingpuss, makes me wish I was in ChiTown.