In the vibrant Avondale neighborhood of Chicago, Thattu, an Indian restaurant, has once again found itself in the prestigious New York Times Restaurant List – an elite compilation of 50 establishments that the publication is “most excited about right now.”
Thattu’s claim to fame lies in its ability to serve up comforting cuisine inspired by Kerala, a spice-rich region in southwest India. Co-owner and chef Margaret Pak, driven by her deep appreciation for coastal Indian flavors, stands at the heart of this culinary success story.
Pak, a Korean-American statistician from California “made the transition to expert cook when, a decade later, she was laid off and Won Kim of Kimski took her under his wing,” wrote John Kessler in the Chicago magazine.
Furthermore, the dishes were inspired by co-owner Vinod Kalathil’s mother, who resides in Kerala. As the couple travels the world, including a visit to India, Kalathil’s mother has been able to pass down family recipes for the restaurant.
Launched in the food hall Politan Row in 2019, Thattu earned a James Beard Award semifinalist nomination.
The New York Times acknowledged that half of this year’s featured restaurants are newcomers, having burst onto the scene since the publication of the 2022 list.
However, it’s worth noting that many of these esteemed eateries have been tantalizing taste buds for years, demonstrating the enduring spirit of independent restaurants even in the face of recent challenges.
Thattu, which expanded to its current location just last year, has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a food hall stand. The dynamic duo behind its transformation, Margaret Pak and Vinod Kalathil, have poured their passion into creating an authentic dining experience.
“This former food-hall stand has found a larger home for its loud flavors, courtesy of the owners Pak and Vinod Kalathil,” writes Times food reporter and author Priya Krishna. “Everything here, down to the stainless steel plates the food is served on, feels homestyle.”
From the promising fish fries to the yogurt rice to the coconut-infused curries that practically beg to be devoured with the delicate rice and coconut pancakes, Thattu’s meticulous attention to detail extends even to its restrooms, featuring thoughtful signage with figures dressed in a sari and a dhoti.
Yet, the dedication of the team behind Thattu has undoubtedly paid off, as they continue to captivate taste buds and hearts with their culinary creations.
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