Chutney Joe’s

A  couple weeks ago, when I was in Chicago, my parents discovered a small Indian restaurant nestled in downtown Chicago. “Why shouldn’t we go there?” they asked.

And so we wound up in the very cozy place that is Chutney Joe’s-and I also wound up plotting to write my first review.

A few things about Chutney Joe’s-it was founded by Vijay Puniani, who wanted to serve “home-style Indian food” in a “modern American ambiance.” It has two locations, both of which are in Chicago, and a downtown location coming soon.

The first thing I saw when we spotted the store was this:

Kind of interesting logo, I guess, but I never really was for the “Let’s use lines in a clever way!” school of thought.

But I digress. We went inside the store, which was very Chipotle-esque in terms of  decor, which I’ll get back to later. While we were awkwardly standing around observing the restaurant at large, I noticed these awesome posters lining the walls. They had little blurbs on them about authentic Indian cuisine and Chutney Joe’s mantra- food is divine. They were informative, well-put together, and just all kinds of awesome.We went up to the front of the store, which a long glass window-once again, like Chipotle.  I ordered a Naan Sandiwch as a part of their Urban Masala menu, along with a mango lassi for a drink. Our purchase was cordially rung up by a guy whose name I couldn’t catch, but had very distinctive sideburns.

I got the idea of writing this review while I was at the restaurant, so while I was eating, my head was blossoming with ideas. All of a sudden I became much more perceptive-if it weren’t for that, this review probably wouldn’t have been as detailed. I’m going to employ three components of critiquing-food, decor, and customer service.

Food- When I first bit into my Naan Sandwich, I was surprised. It had tomatoes, lettuce, onions, cheddar cheese, and pieces of Tandoori chicken- a combination that startled me. It was pretty good-at first. However, as I worked my way through the wrap-like sandwich, I grew increasingly jaded with the taste-the ingredients weren’t perfectly melded together. Eventually, I had to unroll the sandwich, take out the chicken, and  finish the sandwich off chicken-less. However, the mango lassi was sweet, thick, and very pleasant, and it was a nice offset to my main dish. Total Score: 6/10

Decor Drawing heavily from Chipotle, the decor of the store looked like this:
Right down to the long glass window in the front. However the color scheme and the pictures/posters on the wall evoke some Noodles & Company feel. I personally really enjoy that feel, as I think it adds an artsy flair to the store, which is helped by the warm colors. The posters looked like this-

All in all, Chutney Joe’s draws heavily from Chipotle and Noodles & Company, creating a modern fast-casual feel. Notably absent, however, is the funny, sometimes sarcastic humor and marketing strategy of the two companies it draws from (case in point-anybody who reads the Chipotle take-out bags or the gift cards of the Noodles & Company will laugh. Guaranteed.) This is a bit of a let down, as it could really work in this setting. Total Score: 8/10

Customer Service- This, by far was the best part of Chutney Joe’s. Remember the charismatic guy with awesome sideburns? I was watching him while I was at the restaurant, and the whole time he was kind, helpful, and just charming in general. Everybody was helpful and unusually kind, far more than I was used to. They could’ve easily declined when I asked to take pictures of their store-many people would have. Chutney Joe’s should really flaunt this aspect (a la Olive Garden’s “When you’re here, you’re family” motto.) Total Score: 10/10

My parting advice about Chutney Joe’s is this-the food is only a minor part of the experience, the ambiance, the decor, and the staff all leave an indelible mark on your mind. You should go here to meet with long-lost friends. You should go here when you want to surprise your lover with a date.  Most of all, you should go here to have fun.

The Chutney Joe’s I went to is located on 511 South State Street, Chicago, IL.

Author: Apoorva Malarvannan

My name is Apoorva, and I am currently a high school student in the Greater Twin Cities area. I enjoy reading, writing, speaking, and photography. I have a blog here:


  1. For a minute I thought “Hey, who stole my chutney recipe?” 🙂

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