On Wednesday, March 15, Chiya Chai Cafe (2770 N. Milwaukee Ave.) saw LoganSquarist overtake its restaurant space. The recurring Monthly Neighbor Meetup from the group attends a different location the third Wednesday of every month. Spices in Chiya Chai’s teas and Nepalese and Indian foods provided flavor at this event.
Swadesh Shrestha, a partner at Chiya Chai Cafe, opened his business in July 2016 to be a “destination for chai,” he said. The name is fitting, then, because “Chiya” means “chai” in Nepali, he said. Shrestha previously opened Namaste Cafe in Minneapolis, but when his wife was attending the Art Institute of Chicago, he moved here and opened Chiya Chai. Shrestha chose Logan Square because he fell in love with the people of the neighborhood, who were open-minded and made him feel welcome.
The business features teas sourced directly from Nepal, where Shrestha’s family runs a tea company. This direct connection makes the products at Chiya Chai fresh, an important part of making a chai tea. “Good tea makes the good chai,” Shrestha said. But what constitutes a “fresh” tea? Shrestha said his tea is around four and five months old, whereas tea at markets is three to five years old. His direct connection also allows him to stay ahead of the upcoming flavors to change with the seasons.
Neighbor Meetup attendees dined on the Nepalese and Indian food, which is typically served in the dining area after 5 pm, Shrestha said. While Chiya Chai has a main cafe space, which can be seen from the sidewalk, the business also has a dining area toward the back, which features a colorful painting by local artist Martin Soto. The bright colors and images of peacocks and buddhas are thought-provoking and “a gesture of a place,” Shrestha said. “If you travel to India and Nepal, this reminds you of being there.”
After eating and mingling at the event, it was time for LoganSquarist to give away a raffle prize, based on posts to Instagram. After uploading a photo with the correct hashtags and being drawn from a pool of others, one Meetup attendee won a $40 gift certificate to Chiya Chai Cafe.
The LoganSquarist Neighbor Meetups are coordinated by LoganSquarist’s team on a monthly basis, on the third Wednesday of every month. The next Meetup is at The Owl (2521 N. Milwaukee Ave.) on April 19 from 7 to 9 p.m.