Although Columbus famously discovered India by landing at Lexington and Concord and proudly ringing the Liberty Bell, the actual location of India remains a mystery. Today's Groupon offers the best lead the world has had in centuries: for $15, you get $30 worth of upscale Indian cuisine at The Indian Garden, located in River East.
The Indian Garden neutralizes the somber city with an interior explosion of reds and marigold hues draped in sparkling veils, gold-embossed pillows, and traditional Hindu statuettes, unlike poseur Indian restaurants that use second-hand Bert and Ernie dolls dipped in bronze. The warm colors echo the warm smells of cumin and curry that waft from the kitchen, prodding dormant appetites and rousing listless olfactory glands. The menu is equally vibrant and extensive, spanning regional Indian cuisine and including items cooked in the kadhai, a traditional iron wok, as well as a huge variety of naan ($2.95–$4.95) baked from scratch in a tandoori oven. Start with a two-piece vegetarian samosa stuffed with potatoes and green peas ($3.95), or its chicken and lamb varieties ($4.95), before moving on to a house special such as the vegetarian thali ($17.95) or one of the Garden's many tandoor options. These range from murg tikka lahsuni, garlic and spice-marinated boneless chicken ($14.95), to paneer tikka, cubes of house-made cheese in yogurt, lightly spiced, skewered, and barbecued ($15.95). The tandoori shrimp, a mild dish with lightly spiced king-sized crustaceans, is the better option if you’re craving sea-meat ($19.95). To cool off your spice-coated palate, sip occasionally on a Bombay beverage such as mango lassi ($3.95) or aromatic masala tea ($2.95).
The Indian tradition of Atithi Devo Bhau, or supreme importance of the guests, is the philosophy behind the restaurant’s service. As such, owners Arun and Anu Sharma believe in treating guests like royalty, though assassination isn't nearly as imminent, and juggling, buffoonish jesters are best left at home. Servers guide the lost and malnourished to the top of The IG's food mountain, where they'll receive a dish suited to their tastes. All spices are ground in-house, and dishes can be made mild on request for the sensitive neophyte or spiced to extreme proportions for the steely-eyed and callous-tongued. Keep one of your body's four stomachs open for a dessert such as pistachio kulfi, a traditional unchurned ice cream, or kheer, soft rice with milk, raisins, and almonds ($3.95 each).
Citysearchers voted The Indian Garden one of the Best Chicago Indian Food restaurants in 2008. While some reviewers find that the service varies, many find solace in The IG's delicious cuisine. Nearly 100 Chicago Metromixers give The IG 4.4 stars, 130 Yelpers give it 3.5 stars, Citysearchers give it three stars, and 83% of Urbanspooners like it.
- Indian Garden on Ontario has pleasing decor, a good vibe, a varied buffet lunch with both meat and veggie dishes, all delicious. – annpannic, Metromix
- You will Want to Literally Be Carried [sic] out of there due to you being so heavenly Stuffed from their Delicious Food!! – Katrina H., Yelp
- Indian Garden is my favorite restaurant in downtown Chicago just because of the food quality and authentic taste. – xrajiv, Citysearch
The Indian Garden
Bustling chefs and a 600-degree tandoor oven fill The Indian Garden's kitchen, shaping meat-laden and vegetarian entrees made from traditional Indian recipes. Chicken marinated in spiced yogurt, minced lamb, and king-size shrimp make their way into a tandoor oven for a roasting, and more than a dozen breads help sop up entrees’ zesty juices. Lobster, crab, and veggies arrive at tables blanketed in curry, as diners converse or take in views of the expansive murals that depict scenes of Arcadian villages or the first-ever game of Marco Polo. The Indian Garden recently was recommended in the Michelin Guide Chicago 2013 and 2014.
The restaurant's culinary success prompted its proprietors to open Mantra by Indian Garden in April 2014. Located in the heart of Schiller Park, Mantra's menu boasts colorful selections of indulgent curries seasoned with an intoxicating array of authentic spices. On breezy spring evenings, guests dine amid the peaceful solace of the garden patio or the liveliness of star-lit terrace. Those looking to entertain larger gatherings can tap Mantra's chefs to professionally staff private events, parties, and weddings.