Chicago's Flavor: Devon Avenue

February 15, 2011 12:20:42 PM PST
If you ever find yourself saying, "Variety is the spice of life," then you must take a trip down Devon Avenue on Chicago's Far North Side to experience some authentic flavors from around the world.

"This started as an orthodox Jewish neighborhood, now we have Iraqi, eastern Europe, Pakistani, some Afghan stores, really like a mini United Nations," said Victoria Lautman.

Lautman was our guide down an eight-block stretch of Devon, bordered by Western and California. Lautman recently wrote an article in Chicago Magazine called "Decoding Devon" and she says today, this section of Devon is mainly Indian focused. And India is a country she's traveled to many times.

"I traveled to India 30 years ago for the first time, and after I got back, I just wanted to continue that experience until I could go again," said Lautman. "Coming to Devon made me feel like I was still there, the sights, the smells, the food."

From traditional Indian saris to shawls to pillows, everything there is vibrant, rich in history and reasonably priced. The first stop was Reshams.

"Here, you get a little bit of everything but very high quality. They're known for their home textiles, particularly great pillows, spreads, also great clothes and incredible jewelry," Lautman said.

Huma Mahtani owns the store with her husband. They opened it 25 years ago. She came to America as a 14-year-old. And opening the shop was a dream come true.

"This is an American dream in all the ways possible, you can't describe it any other way," she said.

Just a few doors down from Reshams is the first Indian store to open on Devon. India Sari Palace opened in 1972, carrying exquisite fabrics, from silks to chiffons, and fabulous tops even designers covet.

"There have been so many designers who have copied these in the last couple of years, called a kurta," Lautman said. "You'll go to one of the chain stores, [and they] sell these by the dozens at four times the price."

But a visit to Devon would not be complete without a taste of Devon. And if you think Indian bread is just naan, you haven't seen dosa.

India has an incredible range of bread. Some flat, some puffed and some stuffed. Dosa is made of rice and lentil. And poori, made with whole wheat. You dip it in yogurt, or you can try a combination of curries called thali. And the staff at Udupi Palace is happy to walk you through the menu.

So from authentic cuisine to beautiful home decor items and markets stocked with chutneys, spices and nuts, you will find it all and more on Devon.

2540 West Devon Avenue
Chicago, IL (773) 764-9692

India Sari Palace
2534 Devon
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 338-2127

Udupi Palace Restaurant
2543 Devon
Chicago, IL 60659
(773) 338-2152