Inside Chicago’s New Desi Bakery and Masala Chai Cafe

Must read

Cafes in India often feel like French cafes with similar layouts. The differences stem from Indian bakers using croissants and other baked goods as vehicles for savory flavors like the spiced potatoes that fill a samosa or the tamarind zing from chutney used in snacks like chaat.

And though coffee is popular, especially in places in South India where kaapi, filter coffee made with chicory and cardamom, Indian customers have the patience to wait for a properly brewed cup of masala chai. Generally, there’s a void for cafes that feature teas for all varieties in Chicago, and while there are a few South Asian snack shops that feature desserts like gulab jamun or burfi, baked goods aren’t as easy to track down. Thattu in Avondale offers a puff filled with spicy beets, but there are more possibilities, especially when the authenticity police go off duty which can allow for more flavor mingling.

That’s the goal at Swadesi, a new cafe that recently opened in West Loop. It comes from Sujan Sarkar, the chef behind the city’s only Michelin-starred Indian restaurant, Indienne. Sarkar was also the opening chef at Rooh Chicago in West Loop and brought over Yash Kishinchand to manage the cafe. Sarkar is familiar with Kishinchand due to their time working at Rooh Columbus in Ohio.

Swadesi’s menu is more of a second-generation South Asian American feel that bridges Western and Eastern tastes. That creates inventions like croissants with samosa chaat or butter chicken. Jaggery, a cane sugar that’s used in South Asia, is used in a chocolate chip cookie. Beyond the baked goods there are breakfast and lunch sandwiches served on pav, a type of roll the size of a slider bun.

They’ll eventually serve wine and beer, but it’s mostly a daytime affair. There are rumblings about hosting pop-up events in the evenings. As far as the tea, it’s imported from India and staff will take their time brewing. Other drinks include an oak smoke vanilla latte, malted milk chocolate mocha, and turmeric & ginger latte.

Tour the space and check out some of the food below.

Swadesi, 328 S. Jefferson Street, open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

More articles

Latest article