Several years ago I organized a spurt of events with the theme of dead early breakfasts with people congregating as early as 5 AM for breakfast. This week our dead early visit to Baba Palace was revived
with jygach making the most intriguing comment:
I am very familiar with foods served during Ramadan, but not with what reataurants on Devon may be serving. I will call a few tomorrow and get some specifics. Could be a fun early morning outing.
In the background, we began corresponding to compare notes. Jyoti had phoned several restaurants on Devon with no success. On a whim I called the Muslim Cultural Center on Elston who didn't know who offered what I wanted, though I could try downtown. I got an affirmative when I suggested he meant the taxi restaurants around Orleans and Chicago. I called Baba Palace who said they had Ramadan breakfast from 4 AM to 5 AM sharp. Until this moment, I was contemplating a leisurely 5:30 AM meet-up so this was a real awakening.
3:00 AM - I awaken to dress immediately, then head out the door to my friend Helen's home.
3:15 AM - I am in Helen's driveway with no evidence of life or any light in her household. Around 3:20 I was about to give up when a shadowy figure came out her front door.
3:35 AM - Driving to the Edens Plaza to collect Jyoti was all one-lane due to construction on the Edens. The only car behind me is the State Police who was tailgating me while I drive 45 MPH to avoid his ticket. When we picked up Jyoti, she already had an interaction with the police, too. Sitting in the vast parking lot a police officer inquired if she needed any help. She begged off because she was waiting for her friends. We laughed quite a bit wondering what the police were thinking. We laughed even harder when we thought how they might react to our real plan!
4:00 AM - There were several tables of people eating when we arrived to Baba Palace. Jyoti speaking in Urdu to the counterman inquired about the special breakfast foods for Ramadan. "What do you expect? If what we have here is special, then that is your food for Ramadan. Otherwise this is our menu from Friday." Of course the guy you talk to at 3 PM Friday is not the same person you encounter at 4 AM. We gave each other 'The Look' then agreed to stay.
We ordered Mutton Biryani, Karahi Chicken and three kinds of naan: Rogni naan (topped with olive oil and sesame seeds), Onion naan and Keema naan (studded with ground beef and spices). I then reminded the counterman I had been there two years before, ordered tea I never got and was promised a free tea on my next visit. "Oh of course, it was just two years ago we forgot to give you your tea! Naturally, we give you the tea you paid for two years ago!" You can imagine his response was laced with sarcasm. It got even a bit funnier, when I reminded him that Helen was also due a hot tea. He then went on to proclaim what a wonderful businessman he was giving us the tea from two years ago. While he may be a new employee to Baba Palace he recognized the dollar of tea just given away might bring him future customers. Of course, I did remind him he had not given it away, but after two years it was finally served! We all laughed as we paid up, then waited for our food.
We were reminded the favored style of eating is by your hand, when we received china plates and plastic cutlery. At the table next to us, a gentleman was eating in the traditional method by hand. While the food may not have been Ramadan specific, we finished our meal.
4:45 AM - We are tooling up Lake Shore Drive to Devon Avenue to learn which businesses are open and ready to serve breakfast specific for Ramadan.
5:10 AM - We see Lahore Food & Grill bustling. As we approach the door about a dozen young men come streaming out the door. We walk to the counter to learn they close at 5 AM during Ramadan and open again at 5 PM. This may also be their hours the balance of the year, because I remember there are restaurants on Devon with similar business hours. Lahore also does not serve food specific to Ramadan breakfasts.
5:15 AM - We proceed to down to Devon passing Hyderabad House, which is open 24 hours, then backed up to visit them anyway. This was a very good instinct because Hyderabad House offers an early morning breakfast buffet for Ramadan from 3:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Unfortunately they had already packed up and were preparing to close until evening because of Ramadan:
We found ourselves talking to the owner of Hyderabad House, which gave me an opportunity to inquire about the Hyderbad House Family Restaurant across the street. The new restaurant is scheduled to open next Friday, though there will be no opening party due to Ramadan. When I inquired if women and families would be welcome at the exisiting Hyderabad House, I learned the backstory for the new restaurant: Indian women would either not go into Hyderabad House or they would order food to eat in their cars. While he welcomes women to the restaurant, they are intimidated by all the men. He often has families dining at his restaurant and they will always be welcome. The new location was to address an audience who were not comfortable with the nearly all-male customer of the existing restaurant.
Thrilled with our prize information, we headed west on Devon looking for more restaurants. We saw a few convenience stores but no more restaurants open. However if we had come before 5 AM, which seems to be the Ramadan related universal closing hour, then maybe there may be a more.
Earlier on Devon Avenue, before reaching the core business area, we did see a Mexican restaurant open. This got us in the mood for hot chocolate and churros. While I wasn't keen on backtracking, I proposed we go to the only Kosher Dunkin' Donuts on Devon. After we apparently blew past it, we were hit with a reminder: if it is indeed Kosher, then it would not be open on Saturday due to Sabbath.
5:45 AM - We stopped by New York Bagel and Bialy, which allowed Helen to get some breakfast for her family.
5:59 AM - We were still missing a final bite, which the hot chocolate and churros had inspired. I proposed going to Jack's Restaurant on Skokie for the thick cut "Slab" bacon, which we suspect is deep fat fried. We arrived to Jack's to find the interior lights on and the street sign turned off. We had to watch someone adjust the rug before we were allowed in.
Once in we ordered their slab bacon, potato pancakes and cheese blintzes that are no longer homemade despite what the menu advises. Contemplated the biscuits and gravy until I learned the biscuits are not baked on the premises. Helen ordered a hot chocolate, I had their fresh squeezed orange juice and Jyoti stuck to water.
It was not yet 7 AM when we left Jack's. Dropped off Jyoti to her car, took Helen home and then myself to mine. By 7:30, I was dozing back to sleep listening to the news on the radio.
A full day was still ahead of all of us after a pretty full morning adventure!
334 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60610
3132 W. Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60659
5201 West Touhy Avenue
Skokie, IL 60077
2225 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60659
2114-16 West Devon
New York Bagel and Bialy
4714 W Touhy Ave
Lincolnwood, IL 60646