Calling itself the "finest family restaurant in Chicago," Usmania arranges its tables in long aisles, inviting entire families to gather in celebration. Expect a humble atmosphere that's entirely unpretentious, with plastic covering the tables and mirrors lining the walls to spare claustrophobics from feeling enclosed in the smallish interior. This isn't the kind of place you'd take a date, unless your date happens to have a taste for "off the beaten path."
The Pakistani menu's heavy on meat, with various types cooked in a number of thrilling ways; the chicken makni is the sort of dish that you'll always every time after just one bite. That would be a mistake, however, because everything here is excellent. Even the absolutely charming waitstaff is like that of a four star restaurant, yet you'd hardly expect that from the appearances of the place, which leaves the spectacular qualities to the food. Don't miss the nehari, a Karachi favorite, or the equally excellent (and bright red) chicken boti, perfect for someone who wants a tasty but mild dish, rather than one of Usmania's more exotic items (such as brains or hoofs, both of which are on the menu).
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Freda Moon