photo credit: Sandy Noto
The Spice Room
When people throw you a surprise party, it means they care about you. Which is great. But there’s also the unsettling realization that your friends are really good liars, plus the possibility that you actually hate surprises. When you’re not in the mood for the unexpected, the last thing you want is a curveball. The good news is that dinner at The Spice Room in Logan Square is pretty much the opposite of a surprise party.
This isn’t the kind of place that has 73 different menus a year, and devastates you by getting rid of your favorite dish. The food at The Spice Room stays both consistent and consistently excellent. And that’s just one reason this place is a reliable go-to. It’s also casual (but still nice enough for date night) and BYOB, so your biggest concern about a meal here will be if the market across the street still has the Shiraz you really like.
The menu is overwhelmingly long, and there are no bad choices - everything has tons of flavor, so even the really spicy dishes don’t get overshadowed by the heat. Like the lamb vindaloo that has a perfect balance of chile and vinegar, or the complex (and very spicy) pav bhaji, which is like a delicious vegetarian sloppy joe. Milder dishes are great, too - for example, the fantastic and not-too-heavy chicken tikka masala. And the malai kofta (vegetable dumplings in a cashew sauce) is the kind of comfort food that will make you feel better after finding out your friends have been lying to you for weeks about taking you to a spelling bee to celebrate your 30th.
The more you like something, the scarier it is to realize you might lose it (just ask anyone who was a fan of Bunheads before it got cancelled). Thankfully, the Spice Room is dependable - you’ll always find your favorite dishes, and they’ll always be up to the same high standard. Unlike your so-called friends who organized that party, it’s never going to give you any unwelcome surprises - which is ideal, because when something is this good, you don’t want it to change anyway.
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This is an appetizer of really spicy mashed vegetables. It’s served with three toasted, slightly-sweet bread rolls that go perfectly with the vegetable mix. This is a great vegetarian dish to share.
The samosa dough is light and flaky, and the potato and pea filling isn’t mushy at all. It’s everything you want a samosa to be.
Bad day at work? Free floating anxiety? This will fix it. The cashew sauce is rich without being heavy, and the soft vegetable dumplings are a perfect complement.
The vegetables in this dish (cauliflower, broccoli, peas, and potatoes) are served in a tangy, slightly peanut-y sauce with a mild coconut taste. The overall effect is refreshing, and (like a lot of things here) really spicy.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Coming here and not ordering the tikka masala is like not getting the burger at Au Cheval. You can technically do it, but it’s dumb.
If you like really spicy and/or and delicious things, order the vindaloo. Just keep the rice handy to control the heat, and consider getting some naan as well.
This is a bright, spicy green curry. The gravy is made with spinach, mint, cardamom, and bay leaves. It’s a tasty alternative to the creamier sauces.
Badly prepared okra can be oily and slimy, and can be pretty hard to forget. But this okra is always fried perfectly. Plus, the the masala sauce is light and flavorful.
The Spice Room has great naan. The garlic version is our go-to, but we also like making sure some of the kashmiri naan (made with dried fruit and nuts) is on the table. It’s sweet, and goes well with any of the spicy dishes.