Chili's Deli & Mart is now all deli, no mart. It was a long, slow transition from the original convenience store to the current version, which, other than the marks on the wall where bags of chips once hung on shelves, is now all restaurant. As the transition went on, the menu grew with the restaurant, meaning that this tiny storefront, furnished with plastic tables and chairs, now has the best (maybe the only) south Indian food in the city.
It's a far cry from the northern Indian or Moghul style foods that are served at most neighborhood Indian joints. Here the naan, saag, and tandoori are absent, and instead you can find spicy Kerala-style goat curries, small idli (savory rice cakes), giant crêpe-like dosas, and vada, a 'lentil doughnut' according to the menu, which can be ordered on its own or submerged in yogurt or spicy soup. The cuisine is a departure from the usual Indian fare, but it's a journey worth taking, with a few familiar menu items to help you along.
Order a samosa to start, and you'll find the familiar pastry wrapping and savory filling, but you'll also get your first hint of the homemade, high-quality food that comes out of the kitchen. The couple manning the open kitchen, separated from the entrance hallway by high plastic walls, is making everything on their own, as well as waiting tables. It's a collaborative effort, and it makes service slightly haphazard (the 'spicy lassi' beverage came out halfway through the meal, because the chef hadn't made it yet), but when you're sitting at what seem to be elementary school lunch tables, you're not here for the service.
You're here for the food, and it will blow your mind, and if you order it spicy enough, your taste buds, too. Coconut curries, fried fish, flaky paratha breads, and vibrant chutneys will take your focus off the surroundings and bring a rare (in these parts) collection of flavors and dishes to your mouth.