Watching someone purchase toilet paper ranks low on the things you'd expect to see while eating dinner. This spectacle, though, added a bit of charm to Shan Food & Restaurant, an Indian and Pakistani eatery located in the middle of an Uptown convenience store. Its setting makes for a lively scene, as kids grab ice cream from the freezer and older men discuss things in a litany of languages.
The grocery-store feel ended up fitting right in with its low, low prices—the kind that usually require a preferred customer card. For less than $4, you can sample the garlicky, earthy urad dal (mashed lentils) or the vegetables in pakora curry, which were perfectly tender and doused in tangy sauce. The nann flatbread ($2) resembled a Frisbee in size and thickness, and at 75 cents, the samosas, which packed a spicy pop in their mix of potatoes, onions and peas, make for the menu's best deal. They're the size of small pizza slices and would satisfy anyone looking for a late-night snack.
Be warned: The menu on the wall offers little help if you're not well-versed in Indian cuisine, so wait to order until you get a look at the table menus, which list the content of each dish (though, the takeout and sit-down versions didn't match entirely).
Shan's proprietors also own a formal restaurant next to the store; a fine option for people who want a traditional experience, but it loses some of the unrefined yet vibrant character of the store. And no need to worry: Shopping for TP and eating the food were mutually exclusive.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Kent Green