Chicago’s Little Vietnam: Argyle

Chicago’s Little Vietnam: Argyle

Just 40 minutes away by L from Northwestern’s campus, Argyle is an accessible district filled with ethnic Vietnamese food and groceries, and one of the best places to go to if you’re sick of Evanston and don’t want to venture all the way out to downtown Chicago.

My affinity for Vietnamese food is quite a recent thing. I never knew Vietnamese food can be so delicious and complex. (I blame Hong Kong for having no good Vietnamese food.) In contrast to other Asian cuisines such as Thai and Chinese, which boast bold, strong flavors, Vietnamese food is characterized by its simplicity and depth. Argyle is where I started to fall in love with warm pho noodles, fresh banh mi sandwiches and rich Vietnamese coffee.

Nearly everything mentioned in this guide is a 5 minute walk from the Argyle Red Line stop.

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  1. Pho

A quintessential Vietnamese dish, pho is a noodle soup made with clear beef broth, rice noodles, herbs and meat, most commonly different cuts of beef, such as brisket, tendon, flank, beef meatball and tripe. Popular pho restaurants are Tank Noodle*, Pho 777, Pho 888, Le’s Pho and Nha Hang. My personal favorites are definitely Tank Noodle and Nha Hang, as their broths are simmered to produce the deepest and richest beef aroma, and the beef is well-cooked.

*Tank Noodle is closed until early March.

  1. Bánh mì sandwiches

Another Vietnamese staple, the bánh mì sandwich is a French-Vietnamese baguette sandwich with fillings such as roast pork and beef, topped with traditional Vietnamese ingredients like coriander, cucumber, horseradish and pickled carrots and daikon. Ba Le is one of the best places for these delectable sandwiches, with Tank Noodle’s coming in a close second. Basically anywhere that sells pho will more than likely also have bánh mì sandwiches on its menu.

  1. Asian Groceries

One of the biggest and most popular supermarkets in Argyle, Tai Nam Food Market sells a wide variety of Asian groceries, from fresh dumpling ingredients to bok choy to Korean spicy chili paste to Asian snacks, all of which are very reasonably priced.

Highlights

Sun Wah BBQ – A great place for Chinese-style barbeque, where you can get the classics such as roast pork and BBQ duck.

Chiu Quon Bakery – BBQ pork buns, pineapple buns, egg tarts… this is arguably the best bakery in the area to get these traditional Cantonese-style baked goods.

Vietnamese coffee – Vietnamese coffee uses condensed milk instead of regular creamer, resulting in a rich and sweet coffee that delivers a powerful caffeine kick. Get it from Ba Le.

Hairdresser – a little random throwing this out here, but yes, you can get cheap haircuts in Argyle.

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Banh mi sandwich from Be Le  [Photo source: Serious Eats]
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Chinese buns from Chiu Quon [Photo source: Sal M. from Yelp]

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