State Street awning
I consider myself very lucky to attended undergrad in the greatest place on earth, OK top ten…UW-Madison, WI. I remember coming back for the holidays and forcing my high school friends to hear my tales of the crazy Mifflin Street Block parties, ridiculous Halloween parades on State Street, or just the stories of State Street in general. Even though I was a mere hour away from my family, it seemed like a world away—a perfect mix of city, nature and parties. Two, count ’em TWO lakes, one with a Terrace famous for its chairs
and abundance of beer, a gorgeous capital, fun bars and fascinating, great people. I could go on and on about my college experience, but I’ll focus on the one tasty memory recently relived. The aforementioned State Street is the main artery of campus that links the Capital to Library Mall, and a recent stop there on the way home from a Wisconsin road trip had me frowning at the Cosi (formerly Stillwaters for those who frequented that place) and Taco Bell, but overjoyed that Tutto Pasta, Steep and Brew, Espreso Royale and most importantly Himal Chuli were still there. Even back in college I was checking out as many restaurants as I could (the ones I could afford), and this tiny Nepalese restaurant was at the top of my list. Cheap, delicious and satisfying, I remember a $7 special (it’s gone up a bit) of dal and one of the curried meat dishes like chicken sikar simmered in cumin, ginger, garlic and onion, and served with steamed long-grain rice and tarkari; a spiced, fragrant blend of spinach, black-eyed peas, and other vegetables. Hearty, but not heavy, with mild, soul-nourishing (and not scorching) spices, the flavors reminds me of a cross between Indian and African food, and I am officially on the hunt for it in Chicago…anyone?
Being a rare visit, I had to stick with what I knew, but I’d happily return to try lamb sikar, a bison meat stew called hyala
and rice pudding with flax seeds, orange rinds, coconut and almonds. But if there is anything you road trip it up to try, it’s the dal. The mixed bean soup tastes like a lemon-kissed lentil and white bean, and is almost too pretty to eat. The texture is silky and light rather than hot and brothy or thick and stew-y.
Throw in an order of lightly toasted roti and it’s all worth the road trip indeed. Himal Chuli, 318 S. Street. Cash only, so-so service. Front patio. Worth it.