Jun 18, 2011

Late-Night Taxi Cab Confessions


It was way past our bedtime but a late-night craving for munchies pushed us to prolong the evening. My good friends Chad, Big Daddy and I flagged a cab in the south loop of Chicago and instructed our driver to take us to the nearest restaurant serving omelets and corned beef hash. Our first restaurant near the Mag Mile was already closed so I asked our Pakistani driver to take us to the cab driver hangout in the city for south Asian cuisine - primarily Pakistani and Indian.

A few minutes later, we were just west of the Gold Coast where the infamous Cabrini Green projects once stood.  The
projects were gone (and replaced with Starbucks and national retail brands), however, there were still remnants of its turbulent past hidden beyond dark alleyways and a few boarded up buildings. "You don't want to walk past that building," asserted our taxi driver.

With the elements of the "Hangover" movie in place, we got off the cab and arrived at Tabaq restaurant. Both sides of the street were lined with cabs, though we didn't notice anyone in their cabs (most were probably half-sleeping in the back seat waiting for their next call from taxi central). The cab drivers were definitely not in the restaurant since we counted only four patrons inside Tabaq. A clerk manned the lottery counter in the front of the restaurant while another counter clerk managed the buffet area. There was a cook in a white t-shirt and sandals in the back kitchen.

Our taxi driver was kind enough to escort us to the counter. We offered to buy him a meal but he declined. Instead, he told us to try the restaurant's specialty fried fish, which we did. A limited menu of "goat, chicken and vegetables" was on display on the buffet line. So along with our fish, we ordered a plate of goat, chicken, naan bread and a rice pudding dessert (for Big Daddy).

The nann bread was superior to most breads I've tasted in Indian restaurants in the US. crispy on the outside, moist in the inside. The goat and chicken were nourishing given the time of day. The fish, on the other hand, was pretty good with layers of spices and heat to wake up every taxi driver sleeping in their cabs outside the restaurant.

We walked out of Tabaq satisfied from our degustation. Thankfully, we were in a place where we didn't have to worry about finding a cab. A friendly Indian driver appeared from nowhere and offered us his cab. We chatted for a bit outside the restaurant as he finished his cigarette. With our eyes half-shut and bellies fully shut down, our cabbie cruised quietly into the empty streets of Chicago to our hotel.

Tabaq
1245 N. Clybourn
Open 24 hours


Goat, naan and side Salad
Buffet line at Tabaq
Modern seating
Lottery counter and 24-hours Bollywood entertainment 
Chad's American omelet
House special fried fish
Rice pudding with cranberries
Big Daddy enjoying every bite of the rice pudding
The sink next to the buffet. Note the sign...
Tabaq on N. Clybourn

27 comments:

EatingOurWayThroughGrandRapids said...

Great story! Sounds like a fun night.

Bivins Fink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bivins Fink said...

When my husband was in grad school at UIC we went to a similar place on Jackson just east of Halsted (around the corner from his "office"). I didn't realize it had a name until I just googled it, it's called Kabob Corner. This place was always busy and most of the patrons were cab drivers. I think it's still open and since this is the 2nd time in a week I've told someone about it, I think I need to go again...

My Hotel Life said...

Thanks EOWTGR! By the way I came across your story in the press. Congratulations.

Bivins, I appreciate the new suggestion. Kabob Corner will be on the docket next trip to Chitown.

Bivins Fink said...

As a GR to Chicago transplant (who was a good pal of your sister-in-law Laura back in the day!), I am hoping that U of C is the chosen school of your daughter so I can read more recommendations of Chicago restaurants. I also love seeing how vibrant my hometown has become and how there really IS good food to be had there now! -Eliza

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