It says something about how far we've come as a food nation when you feel like you have to apologize for eating chicken makhani. Butter chicken is so ubiquitous that it's kind of become the crab rangoon of Indian food, the difference being that, at least from what I’ve read, it's actually a real Punjabi dish and not some Americanized bastardization. Though, from what I’ve learned about food origins, the copious amounts of cream and butter in this dish suggest it is an American- or European-influenced invention. But then again, who cares? What’s important is when done right, it tastes good.
Guilt aside, for eating like a relative dilettante, I've been getting my chicken makhani fix up the block in Chicago's West Loop at a spot called Jaipur. While it’s not the best example in the city, it’s very good. What makes it really compelling is that it's usually part of an "all you can eat" affair that also includes freshly baked naan, creamy mutter paneer, fresh fried pakoras and samosa, and a rotating complement of other dishes. For that price, you’re not getting some stew of overcooked steam table items, but reasonable portions cooked fresh and brought tableside as you eat. There’s a healthy dose of spice (more if you ask for it) and the dishes aren’t dumbed down.
At $14, you won’t find a much cheaper buffet option in the city, and as far as I know, outside of maybe one or two ragtag Pakistani spots on Chicago’s Devon Street strip, you wouldn’t be able to put together the same à la carte quality for this price.