Every morning just before lunchtime my phone lights up with a message from Madhura Cafe’s WhatsApp group chat about the restaurant’s daily thali. And every day it occasions such an intense hunger pang that I consider making the 30-minute drive from my house to the little strip mall in Deerfield where the restaurant resides.

Madhura Cafe, a South Indian snack shop with a dining room as plain as could be, serves the kind of food an expat from Chennai might crave. Open since August, it is slowly getting off the ground, and the specials change day to day. During lunch, you can get the $10 thali or a tiffin filled with items like a dosa with chutney and sambar or poori with potato masala. Tiffins are also available on weekends starting at 7 a.m. (serving breakfast is a rarity for Indian spots in the area).

But wowza, that thali — so generous it fills two plastic cafeteria trays — is some delicious home-cooked Tamil soul food. Among the dozen disposable bowls may be a dry okra peanut curry, a spinach and chayote dal, and paneer in tomato gravy. Sometimes there is a meat option, perhaps chile chicken for an extra dollar. There will be sambar soup, housemade pickles, papad, and a mound of rice to feed a family. And something fun, like spicy mini samosas or a handful of the colorful crackers called Fryums.

Also fantastic: the thinnest, crispiest dosas in Illinois ($7.99) and tangy steamed cakes, idly ($5.99), with mint-coconut chutney and brilliantly sour rasam soup for dipping. God, I’m starving. Who’s in?