Added on June 12, 2010 Andrea Afra
A Super Indo-Pak Attak: Sheikh Chillies
by Andrea Afra
This review epitomizes the tagline of this food blog- Why Houston is Awesome, Mouth First. Houston’s awesomeness lies not in the glory of its history or architecture or progressiveness or much of anything that would get us noticed for a positive reason, but it’s what the people who live here contribute that makes our city special in spite of its shortcomings.
Yes, our public transportation is a joke, our ‘green’ ratings are among the lowest in the country, and our solution to just about any problem is to add another lane. But you know what? We have something a lot of other places don’t. Food. Glorious food. I would say that, yes, Jeffe, we do have a plethora of places and cuisines to choose from and that is what makes Houston awesome.
Let’s say it’s nearing midnight and you’re feeling the hungerbird pecking* and you’re really not in the mood for drive thru or taqueria food. You want something spicy, different, goaty perhaps, and you’re willing to drive ten minutes away to get it. Here’s the awesome part: There is a place that has been open until at least 2am for the last 26 years and yes, they have goat.Sheikh Chilli’s, an Indian-Pakistani restaurant just north of 59 S. on Hillcroft, is tucked into a strip center along with several other interesting restaurants ranging from Salvadorian and Honduran food to a halal meat market and an intriguingly seedy looking game room.
Inside, Sheikh Chilli’s is large but rather simply laid out with several booths and tables and a row of tall potted plants dividing the room. A few framed Arabic calligraphy pieces hang on the wall above the counter. There is coin operated Accurate Weight machine at the door along with a rack for Indian publications and entertainment flyers. Like most Indo-Pak restaurants I’ve been to, there is a television playing popular Indian music videos that are highly entertaining to say the least.
Majid is the owner and Babu is the chef. I didn’t see Babu, who is from India, but Majid, who is from Pakistan, has always been there when we’ve gone to eat. He is soft spoken and kind with tan skin and eyes the color of a shallow lagoon. He took over when Azhar, the original owner, passed away a few years ago.
Ordering at Sheikh Chilli’s can be a little confusing at first if you don’t know your ‘murgh’ from your ‘gosht’ (chicken and goat) but that’s what I’m here for.
At lunch time you get to choose from a meat and several sides and it’s all served on an old school cafeteria tray. And by school, I mean public school, as in plastic, divided, institutional yellow trays. I love it.
There are several specials each day to choose from ranging from Saturday’s fish masala to Thursday’s gosht curry. (Friday night is Brain Masala…I dare you!)
This here is drinking food. Most of the curries are heavy and thick and the spice infused oils rise to the surface. The goat here is excellent, especially the tender roasted bone in cuts used in the curries; I ordered the Wednesday special, bhona gosht, a thick cumin-forward goat (gosht) curry (bhona).
The chicken tikka was spicier than most other places and offered on the bone which is a rarity. We also ordered the bengan, eggplant, which was the vegetable of the day. It’s spicy and tangy, sauteed with tomatoes and garlic until it’s almost a puree.
Try the sag paneer if they have it- it’s super rich. There are a lot of menu items they don’t have at some times but that’s to be expected at any down home no-frills eatery, right?
If they’re out of samosas, skip the pasties- a deceptively flaky looking savory pastry that turned out to be bland and dry.
I have to admit, I was a little afraid of Sheikh Chillies the first time I went for lunch, scared in the sense that I didn’t know what I was getting my stomach into, but my fears were baseless, everything was delicious, and I polished off the whole tray plus an extra piece of naan.
The next time someone says they’re in the mood for Indian, surprise them with a real taste adventure for their mouth and head for Sheikh Chillies. Then thank me in the comments for enlightening you with this old school find.
Sheikh Chilli’s Restaurant
6121 Hillcroft Street, Houston - (713) 995-6768
by Andrea Afra
Reader, writer, nature chaser. Follow me @commandrea and @wildinhtx, read other writings at http://andreaafra.com