On our little tourist trip to Chicago earlier this summer (see that entry here), we decided to both try Indian food for dinner one evening. We picked out a place that was just off the north end of the Magnificent Mile - Gaylord (see map). It turns out that Gaylord is the place that locals and Indian ex-patriots go for their fix of Indian food.
Actually, Cindy ate at the Gaylord a number of years ago at their Schaumburg location (see map). Only it turned out to be a mistake. She and her friend, Pam, had met in Chicago for a shopping weekend and were staying not far from the Gaylord restaurant. When they went out looking for a place to eat that evening and saw the sign for Gaylord. Only they thought it said, "Italian Restaurant" rather than "Indian Restaurant". When they went inside, they were somewhat embarrassed to find out it was an Indian restaurant. But since neither had tried Indian food before, they were somewhat game to give it a try. And Cindy liked it - a lot. She called me later that evening, "We have GOT to go get Indian food sometime! You would love it!"
If you're a regular reader of Road Tips, you've noticed that I'm doing my best to expand my horizons when it comes to Indian food. So based upon Cindy's glowing review of the place from years ago, I was eager to give the one in downtown Chicago a try.
Gaylord has been around the Chicago area since 1972, but their roots go back well into the 50's back in India. Two restaurant entrepreneurs, Mr. Gai and Mr. Lamba had upscale Indian restaurants in both Bombay (Mumbai) and Delhi. They decided to take their recipes and open similar restaurants around the world. I don't know how many Gaylord restaurants they opened or exactly where, but the first one in the U.S. was located on North Clark Street in downtown Chicago. A couple years ago, Gaylord's downtown location relocated to it's present spot at 110 E. Walton St.
The Gaylord location in downtown Chicago is actually in the basement of the building. The upper part of the building is part of Chicago's history. 116 E. Walton was the home of the original Playboy Club. With the new NBC drama/nostalgia series "The Playboy Club" starting up (and subsequently getting canceled) earlier this fall, along with the recent announcement that Playboy will re-open a Playboy Club in Chicago, people have been flocking to the original location on E. Walton to see where it all started. The only problem is that 116 E. Walton is now a professional office housing, I believe, health specialists. Not many bunnies jumping around in front of that place.
We were seated along the wall toward the middle of the spacious dining room at Gaylord. The sturdy tables were covered with a heavy linen tablecloth and the high-backed chairs were comfortable. We were greeted by a waiter who gave us our menus and we proceeded to look through them to figure out what we wanted. Cindy ordered a glass of red wine and I got a bottle of Kingfisher beer, possibly the most widely distributed of all Indian-brewed beers.
I've found service at most Indian restaurants I've visited over the past year to be spotty, at best. After the waiter brought our drinks, they just sort of forgot about us. It's not that we were ready to order right away, but no one even came over to see if we WERE ready to order. After about 10 minutes, one of the managers, nicely dressed in a dark blue suit, came over and asked us if we were ready to order. I told him we were and I thought he was going to summon one of the waiters. Instead, he was the one who took the order.
We had looked at a lot of things before we ordered. We definitely wanted to get some of the garlic naan, which we did. It was served piping warm and we got some of the unknown sauces Gaylord provided at their salad bar to dip the bread into. The garlic permeated each bite we took of the naan. Cindy hadn't had the garlic naan on her first visit to Gaylord years ago, but she really liked it. I mean, who wouldn't like garlic naan?
I was thinking of getting some sort of a seafood dish, but decided to play it safe and get something along the lines of a chicken dish. I'm still a little gun shy with Tandoori chicken, but they did have a couple entrees that featured Tandoori cooked chicken. There was the Tikka Masala - boneless chicken pieces in a curried sauce; and the Murg Makani with boneless chicken that's cooked in butter, Indian seasonings and a tomato puree. However, I ended up getting the Murg Bhuna, boneless chicken chunks cooked in a somewhat spicy onion sauce.
Cindy made the mistake of asking what beef dishes they had at Gaylord and the manager curtly said, "No beef!" She ordered something from the lamb side of the menu - the Rogan Josh that had tender lamb pieces cooked in an Indian-seasoned tomato/onion sauce. Afterward, she said, "Geez, I forgot that cows are sacred in India!"
Not long after we ordered, our entrees showed up at the table. Both were served with a side of rice and the portions were ample. While I wasn't overly certain of how the consistency of the onion gravy would - whether it would be thick or more watery - I was very happy with my Murg Makani (right). The chicken was tender and flavorful, the onion sauce was wonderful when spooned onto a piece of garlic naan. The sauce had a little bite to it, but nothing that was over-powering. It was absolutely fabulous.
Cindy couldn't come up with anything wrong with her Rogan Josh lamb dish other than it was so filling, especially after piecing on the garlic naan as we were waiting for our dinner. She said the lamb was tender and she offered me a bite. But I'm not big on lamb - never have been for some reason - and I declined.
The service continued to be spotty up until the time we received the check. Once I put the credit card in the folder, the waiter jumped on that with quick efficiency. And it wasn't all that expensive at Gaylord - our entrees were $15 for my dish, $17 for Cindy's lamb entree, and both were good-sized. The garlic naan was $4 bucks and there was a lot there, and our bar tab came to $18 bucks - about normal to a little lower than what we normally spend at a nice restaurant.
The food at Gaylord was just outstanding. I haven't had a lot of Indian food in my life, but I have to say that my experience at Gaylord was fabulous. I'm getting my feet more wet with each visit to an Indian restaurant and I'm starting to get a little more brave with the things I order. Gaylord is definitely on my radar now and I'd really like to go back and try something a little more daring at some point. Something that involves a little more curry than I've experienced during prior visits to Indian restaurants. I'm sure Gaylord could easily accommodate me.