By its nature, South Indian food is vegetarian. You'll see lots of sev - crunchy chickpea noodles - plus breads and crepes. But at Chowpatti, a vegetarian fixture in Arlington Heights since 1982, the menu has evolved over the years, to include several non-Indian options.
"We were vegetarians, so my dad would fix us veggie burgers and burritos and quesadillas; customers would eye our food and they'd say, 'What are you having?' And so then my dad would give them a sample. It wouldn't be on the menu, but customers would say, 'You need to add this on the menu,'" said Niyanta Kapadia, Chowpatti.
And add they did - veggie burgers, spaghetti with veggie balls and falafel with pita and all the trimmings, plus, a wide assortment of Indian-inspired breads, such as roti and paratha.
"The batter is vegan and gluten free, so it's very popular," Kapadia said.
But so are the extensive Indian options, like the Premium Bombay Bhel.
"Puffed rice, kind of like Rice Krispies, it has bits of whole wheat chips, some noodles made out of chickpea flour, in that crunchy mixture we add potatoes, onions, cilantro; we add three chutneys, that are like sauces or dressings: a garlic chutney is spicy, then we have a golden chutney made using green chilies, and a sweet chutney is made using dates," Kapadia said.
The dish is simultaneously crunchy, soft, spicy, sweet and savory. Delicious. The Special Sev Batata Puri are also called Indian "nachos," due to the fact round potato discs rest on crispy wheat chips, and then are topped with a host of ingredients, such as yogurt, chutney and sev - those crispy chickpea noodles - plus cukes and fresh cilantro.
Masala dosa, an Indian crepe made from rice and lentil batter, is filled with potatoes, onions and cashews, while several other dishes, including curries made with veggies or chickpeas can be modified for your heat preference.
For dessert, homemade malai kulfi, essentially ice cream, is addictive, while the carrot halwa can be served chilled or warm. Gulab jamun also arrive either plain or a la mode.
"They're round, soft and spongy Indian pastries dipped in sweet saffron syrup. Normally, they're served warm," said Kapadia.
Vegan brownies and cinnamon rolls make decisions even tougher. Kapadia says her customers have really embraced all things vegetarian.
"We've seen more and more people interested in vegetarian now than many years ago. People are caring more about what they're putting in their bodies, and it's great to see that change," she said.
And a very important note: the restaurant is closed for Thanksgiving and the day before. But it will reopen Friday for dinner.
1035 S. Arlington Heights Rd., Arlington Heights