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Budget Beat: Paprika Indian Gourmet

One step into this richly hued Lincoln Square BYO and the mellow aroma of Indian spices mingled with soft sitar music guarantees instant warmth. So does the friendly owner, Shah Kabir, who welcomes customers while his family keeps watch over the curries and vindaloos. “We all love to cook,” Shah says, “and to spend our time together in the kitchen.” The result is fresh and homey, as the impossibly delicate veggie samosa proves. For contrast, try onion bhaji, crunchy fritters that offer pure deep-fried joy. Food is cooked to order, so don’t plan on curry in a hurry—bide your time nibbling complimentary pappadam with a round of chutneys. Entrées include a slew of vegetarian options, from a thick, sultry eggplant and spinach duo to a near-lethal multivegetable vindaloo (each $8.95). A spirited salmon tikka kebab ($11.95), strewn with tomato chunks and onion strips, offers non-veg temptation, as does a smoky paprika chicken ($12.95). Rice accompanies, but the naans and parathas are fab. And be sure to save room for kheer, a dreamy rice pudding studded with raisins, almonds, and pistachios that the Greek men playing backgammon at the coffeehouse next door should slip in to try. 2547A W. Lawrence Ave.; 773-338-4906.

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