Devon Avenue - Chicago's "Little India"

Two students in Chicago city

One of our DePaul University students, Prachi, visited Devon Avenue in Chicago to explore the neighborhood’s diverse ethnic communities. In this blog post, she shares her experiences.

Chicago is fortunate to play host to so many rich cultures. With a quick trip up to Western and Devon, we can spend a day in the city's slice of India. Devon Avenue (Little India) is home to a vivid mix of cultural influences and establishments, and is one of the most diverse streets in America, with its mixture of ethnicities and cultures. Once you are on Devon Avenue, you’ll find yourself serenaded by a dozen languages within only a few blocks.

I'd been there two or three times before, but much of it remained unfamiliar. You may be wondering what to expect when you get there, so let me share some of our great experiences, as well as why we love this place. This time I went to Devon with my two friends to do a project on Little India. Our journey was amazing and unforgettable, because we had delicious food and enjoyed shopping in the area.

It was easy to go to Little India from the Loop Campus on public transit - we got to the neighborhood in about 30 minutes.

In India, there’s a saying that if you want to start a new work, start with prayer. In the same way, we started our journey by visiting a Sikh temple, where we had removed our shoes and covered our heads before entering. A ceremony had just ended, but we were invited to have a look around.

The next stop was Reshma’s shop. As a shopaholic, I can’t leave Little India without shopping in Reshma’s. They specialize in home décor, handicrafts, meditation and spirituality-related products. All products there are made and brought over from India. It is easy to spend hours in that shop!

The next place we stopped was one of my favorite places: Patel Brothers. It is the biggest Indian grocery store in America, where you can browse and buy authentic Indian groceries, bakery items, sweets, cosmetics, herbals, pooja items, and more. It was fun doing shopping in this store, too.

All the shopping and walking made us hungry. Your journey to Little India can’t be over without trying its delicious food. In Little India we can find varieties of classical, authentic Indian food, including vegan choices. There are so many mouth-watering options, but we went to Sukhadia’s Sweets & Snacks to try some amazing food. We were tempted there by the delicious-looking sweets in the display cases. We had amazing pani puri: a fried puffed dough, which is a popular street food in south and southwest India. Also, we had burfi: another traditional dessert which can be compared to carrot cake in taste. After eating all the amazing food, I felt like I was at an Indian wedding.

After filling ourselves with interesting information and our faces with delicious goodies, it was time to start walking again. Our next stop down Devon Avenue was Sahil, a colorful boutique offering the latest traditional Indian fashion for women and men. The colors and materials of the clothing are a delight to the senses. Indians like to express their identity through that clothing - the different styles and ornamentation on the garments indicate where in India a person is from. 

The next stop was Roopkala Beauty Salon, where we received pretty, traditional henna tattoos. Our henna artist moved quickly and with amazing detail. My tattoo lasted for well over a week!

I can define Little India in one word: vivid. It is a great place to appreciate the beauty of a rich culture filled with colors and masala, a famous term that means a mixture of many spices. It also portrays Indians’ dramatic and lively personalities. Little India is one of the must-visit spots when traveling to Chicago. We learned a lot from the place and finished our school project, and it was an amazing day.