Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.
I am a sweater.
Yes, you read that correctly. I am a sweater. And by sweater, I don't mean the Bill Cosby torso tapestry, but rather the kind of person who perspires just by looking at a jalapeño. I don't know what is up with my body, but whenever I consume anything with even a remote amount of heat to it, beads of sweat immediately start forming on my forehead. It's like my body has a spice hair-trigger, and it's really embarrassing. When I first started dating my girlfriend, I would avoid spicy food when taking her out to dinner for that very reason. You should have seen her face the first time I ate spicy food in front of her. She just couldn't stop staring. And then there was the laughter. There was just so much laughter. Oh God, make the memories stop!
However, the truth of the matter is that I love spicy food. I just try to avoid it in public. When I picked Bombay Wraps for this week's edition of Lunch in the Loop, I wasn't thinking too much about spice levels. I was thinking, "Wow, Chicago Serious Eaters are going to find this lunch restaurant really interesting!" I mean, the concept at Bombay Wraps is pretty intriguing. You start with a flatbread of your choice (roti or paratha), and then it is filled with various Indian fillings like curries, paneers, and tikkas. How could I know that my trip would end with the entire staff of the restaurant staring, pointing, and laughing at me? Why does every one of my stories end this way?
One of my favorite wraps at Bombay Wraps is the Lamb Curry ($5.99). After I enjoyed it, the manager mentioned that it was one of his favorites too, and it's easy to see why. The lamb is wonderfully tender, a little gamy, but not distractingly so, mostly because the curry carries that gaminess quite well. It comes garnished with pickled red onions and a cilantro chutney.
The mildest wrap on the menu, and another of my favorites, is the Chicken Reshmi ($3.99). It's filled with char-grilled chicken that has been marinated in creamy yogurt and Indian spices. The chicken is well charred on the grill, adding a great smoky dimension to the wrap.
Out of the two vegetarian wraps, I prefer the Paneer Wrap ($4.99). The Indian fresh cheese has a flavor which is similar to mozzarella, but dryer and crumblier, which lends itself well to the Tandoori spices that it's seasoned with. The surrounding sauce has a tomato tang, and in my opinion, you can never go wrong with tomatoes and any fresh white cheese.
Of the two sides we tried, the Sweet Potato Fries ($2.00) and the samosas ($2.00), I found myself gravitating towards the sweet potato fries. While the crunchy sweet potato fries are fairly standard, the unique lime-like seasoning is great. The potato samosas are the perfect size, not too big, and are filled with curry-spiced potatoes and peas, and come with a cilantro-heavy chutney for dipping.
The two drinks you see here, the Mango Lassi on the left ($2.99) and Thums Up on the right ($2.00), are what you need to cool your palate while stuffing your face full of Indian food. The mango lassi is rich and sweet with mango puree, slightly tart from the yogurt, and is perfect for spicy food. And the Thums Up (which is really how you spell it) is one of the most unique soft drinks I've ever tasted. It's a cola drink which isn't too sweet and has a ginger-like finish. It's a refreshing chaser to any fiery bite of food.
A few last things—just so you're informed, each of these wraps are fairly small. If I were you, I'd either go with two wraps, or a wrap and a side if you want a filling lunch. And the last thing? Be careful when you order anything "spicy." Remember how I told you that I'm a sweater? Well, after my first bite, I knew that my lunch would end in a pile of sweaty napkins, a red-faced Dennis, and a lot of people looking curiously at me while laughing their asses off. And that's exactly what happened.