Charcoal-Grilled Ecstasy at Khan B.B.Q.
There are people who, when you ask them about something, say "Oh, that's one of my favorite things to eat in Chicago," and if you tallied up everything they said that of, it would amount to a small town phone book's worth of dishes. So let me be clear about the chicken boti at Khan B.B.Q.: it's one of my favorite things to eat in Chicago, as in three. I would pick it over free dinner at much of the Michelin list. It's what I plan to order on my last night on Death Row. I would sing its praises lasciviously in Maxim (oh wait, that one actually happened).
But let's back up, because I know Devon Avenue's row of Indian and Pakistani restaurants is a mystery to some—a mystery solved too easily by the presence of buffets, which allow you never to have to actually decipher a menu. The buffets are all right but Khan B.B.Q., at the corner of Devon and Western, will offer you a decidedly different South Asian food experience than the steam table lunch.
Khan B.B.Q. is a tandoori barbecue; that means it has two tandoors, big concrete vats with a metal lid and live charcoal burning at the bottom. Any grilled meat you order will be threaded onto a skewer and placed in the tandoor, where it gets a rich smoky flavor and char-flecked exterior to offer an experience as primally satisfying as any barbecue barbecue in town.
What you want to try, first, is chicken boti ($10.99). The name apparently just means, basically, grilled chicken, and I've ordered "chicken boti" elsewhere and gotten something very different. Khan's version is marinated in yogurt (or raita, the common yogurt dip); it's spicy and green-tinged and charred black in spots and tart and tangy and juicy and, as Maxim once put it, a Technicolor explosion in your mouth. I like to make a little sandwich of it with naan, cucumber, and a dash of raita, which the staff probably finds horrifying but is too polite to say.
My other favorite grilled dish is goat chanp ($14.99), which is often only available at dinner—goat chops smeared with a paste as sulfurously bright-red as a stoplight.
I'm not a fan of the seekh kabab ($10.99), ground beef and lamb, which just tastes like grilled hamburger, but beyond the grill I can recommend broast chicken ($9.99/$16.99), which is chunks of fried chicken with Indian spices, or frontier chicken with rice ($9.49), red-marinated chicken with yellow rice, which next to the bright spiciness of the other dishes is the menu's nod to comfort food.
There are vegetable dishes, too, and naan and paratha breads—order whatever appeals to round out your meal, aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato, $5.99) or chana masala (chickpeas, $5.99). Like at any barbecue joint, vegetables aren't why you're here, they're just to spell your mouth in between bites of charcoal-grilled ecstasy.