Due to the lush red and white draperies shrouding the windows here, the exterior of this small restaurant storefront looks more like it's Polish or Eastern European than Pakistani. But if you ford the entrance, you'll find a raucous crowd of folks, many in salwar kameez hovering over steaming bowls of keema (fried minced meat with herbs, onions and chili) and fresh, bubbly tandoor-caramelized naan and chapati. Sit back and relax in the relatively utilitarian dining room and you'll have an eagle-eye view of the cooks feverishly working a flattop grill and a fiery tandoor in the open kitchen.
The food served here rivals the eats at the more popular Khan BBQ up the road, but without the relative luxury. Yellow dal is creamy and soul satisfying, while the Chapli kebabs – kind of like mini meatloaves stuffed with chilis, herbs, and spices – are maybe the best in Chicago.
Most places on Devon street use minced lamb formed into thick patties that quickly dry out in the hellfire of a clay tandoor oven. Bismillah instead makes them with ground chicken, which retains its juiciness. Their patties are wafer thin, light and crispy, and perfectly caramelized on the outside, with a succulent spicy interior.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant