Why You Should Check Out “Asia On Argyle,” Chicago’s Little Vietnam

Why You Should Check Out “Asia On Argyle,” Chicago’s Little Vietnam

Published July 30, 2021

One of my all-time favorite neighborhoods in Chicago is the West Argyle Street Historic District! Known for its Vietnamese, Southeast Asian, and East Asian heritage, Argyle is a prominent cultural destination on the city’s north side. If you’re going to be in Chicago, you should definitely check out some of the restaurants, cafes, and street art in this area!

Having lived in Vietnam for most of 2019, I love going up to Argyle as often as I can. It’s is a pretty small neighborhood, so the main thing for visitors to do is support local businesses and enjoy delicious, authentic Southeast Asian cuisine. This post will highlight some of my top recommendations!

Where is Argyle?

Asia on Argyle is located in Chicago’s Uptown district. It’s right on the CTA Red Line, so it’s easy to get to from the Loop (downtown Chicago). Centered at the intersection of West Argyle Street and North Broadway, Little Saigon is a compact neighborhood that extends only a couple of blocks in each direction.

Six Vietnamese dishes to Try

If you’re visiting Chicago, the best thing to do on Argyle is eat! This section features six dishes to get your mouth watering, and most if not all of them should be easy to find at any Vietnamese eatery in the area.

1. Lots and Lots of Phở!

Argyle has by far the highest number of phở restaurants of any neighborhood in Chicago. In fact, there are so many options that I’m writing a separate post all about it [coming soon]! Be sure to check it out if that’s what you have a craving for!

2. Bún Thịt Nướng

This is a popular dish that is great for hot summer days. Like phở, bún thịt nướng is based on rice noodles, but it’s served cold with only a small serving of sauce on the side and no soup. It’s also usually topped with veggies, grilled meat, and an egg roll. The dish is an incredibly balanced and fresh meal with a full range of flavors.

This bowl of bún thịt nướng pictured above is from Phở 888 (location), one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants in the area!

3. Cơm Đĩa (or Cơm Tấm)

Whether you see it on a menu as a rice plate (cơm đĩa) or broken rice (cơm tấm), any Vietnamese combo meal with rice as the base is bound to be delicious. Usually served with egg, meat, veggies, and a slightly sweet and sour sauce, cơm tấm is another refreshing meal that basically hits all the food groups.

The plate shown here was ordered at Miss Saigon Restaurant (location | website). With great service and an interesting interior, this place is worth trying, even if you’re in the mood for something other than rice!

4. Mì Quảng

I didn’t really discover mì quảng until my final few months of living in Saigon, and I’m so sad I didn’t find it earlier! It’s a delicacy from Central Vietnam, and since I haven’t had it that many times, I’ll let an expert explain exactly what it is:

"Mi Quang is rice noodles with an assortment of fresh vegetables and Vietnamese herbs, tossed together with a small amount of intensely flavored broth made from pork and/or chicken stock. The small amount of broth sets this noodle dish apart from the others. There is just enough broth in each serving to wet the noodles and bring everything together. There are many variations on what proteins and toppings that go into the dish but the signature items include slices of pork belly, whole shrimp, roasted peanuts and toasted sesame rice crackers."

Vicky goes on to explain that the noodles are dyed yellow using turmeric, and her blog includes a full recipe. Isn’t this bowl of mì quảng so pretty? It was as delicious as it looks, and I ordered it at Nhà Hàng Vietnam Restaurant (location).

5. Bánh Xèo

Does this dish look like a massive omelette to you? It does to me, but it’s actually not made of egg at all! Bánh xèo is a crispy pancake made using rice batter, folded over and filled with steamed bean sprouts, shrimp, and bits of pork.

It’s eaten together with a serving of leafy greens and a delicious dipping sauce. If you’re looking for a lighter meal than a bowl of soup or noodles, try bánh xèo! You’ll often find it on the appetizer section of menus. The one pictured here was served at Pho Viet (location | website).

6. Bún Chả Hà Nội

Have you noticed how many different noodle dishes I’ve featured already? They’re definitely a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, but every dish has such a unique flavor. That’s true of bún chả, a specialty from Hanoi. It’s not as easy to find in the US as phở. However, it is such a treat and worth seeking out! Essentially, you dip the cold noodles and fresh veggies into the bowl of broth, which contains pork meatballs, carrots, and thinly sliced green papaya.

I’ve actually mentioned this dish a number of times in the blog already: once in my Saigon food guide, and once in my blog post about Hanoi. It has been a personal favorite of mine for years now! The beautifully plated bún chả shown above is from Phở 777 (location | website).

Noteworthy Restaurants

All of the dishes mentioned above can be found at multiple places on Argyle, but I also want to feature some individual restaurants. I’ve been pretty methodical about trying as many places as possible in the neighborhood. Below are some of my favorites! To skip down to the next section of this post about cafes, bakeries, and tea shops, click or tap here.

Furama Restaurant
富麗華酒樓

Address: 4936 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640
Website: https://www.furamachicago.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/furamachicago/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/furamachicago/

There’s something I find really endearing about this Chinese restaurant on Broadway! Some people might feel like the interior décor is a little dated, but I think it has such a cool retro vibe that gives the place a lot of character.

Furama is famous for dim sum, which is served all day. If you’d rather do a family-style meal, their menu also has a large selection of meat, rice, veggie, and noodle dishes to choose from.

Immm Rice & Beyond

Address: 4949 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640
Website: https://immmchicago.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/immmchicago/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/immmchicago/

I love the concept of Immm, a restaurant specializing in Thai street food. Even if you’re craving pad thai or curry, Immm offers a chance to branch out and try a Thai dish or two that you’ve never had before.

Kuay tiew rua (boat noodles) is listed as the most popular dish on their menu, so of course I had to try it! The broth was fragrant, and it had just the right amount of spices.

Sun Wah BBQ

Address: 5039 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640
Website: https://sunwahbbq.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sun-Wah-Barbecue-Restaurant-120618204621446/

This is one of Chicago’s cornerstone Hong Kong style BBQ restaurants. They’re famous for their multi-course Beijing Duck Dinners, which I’d really like to try someday soon. However, they also offer your choice of BBQ meat over rice with veggies and soup for a good price. These are a great option if you’re looking for a quicker meal for one or two people.

Ba Le Sandwiches

Address: 5014 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640
Website: https://www.balesandwich.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/balebanhmisandwiches/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ba_le_sandwich/

Have you ever had bánh mì (Vietnamese baguette sandwiches) before? Whether your answer is yes or no, you should visit Ba Le. This small deli on the main intersection of Argyle serves delicious and fresh sandwiches that are as good as the ones you can get from street vendors in Saigon!

Thai Pastry Restaurant

Address: 4925 N Broadway Unit E, Chicago, IL 60640
Website: https://www.thaipastry.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Thai-Pastry-Restaurant-115961455093904/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thai.pastry.restaurant/

Argyle’s other noteworthy Thai restaurant is only a short walk down the block from Immm. In addition to offering standard dishes like curry and fried rice, Thai Pastry has a lot of unique appetizers. Consider trying their kuchai, an order of flat chive dumplings served with a slightly sweet sauce.

As the name suggests, this restaurant also sells pastries, imported snacks, ice cream, and other things to take home with you after dinner. Be sure to check them out at the front counter!

Desserts, Drinks, & Pastries

Don’t forget to save room for dessert when you’re visiting Asia on Argyle! There are lots of great places to try if you’re looking for something sweet or caffeinated.

First Sip Cafe

Address: 1057 W Argyle St, Chicago, IL 60640
Website: https://www.firstsip.cafe/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/firstsipcafe/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/firstsipcafe/

This cozy coffee shop is one of my favorites in all of Chicago. The interior is so unique, with lots of potted plants by the front window and teacups hanging from the ceiling around the counter area.

First Sip Cafe also offers some amazing flavored lattes that you can get hot or iced. I really liked their pistachio mint and orange blossom lattes, and I can’t wait to try spicy mango and banana sundae. This should give you an idea of how creative their menu is!

Chiu Quon Bakery
超群茶餐廳

Address: 1127 W Argyle St, Chicago, IL 60640
Website: http://www.cqbakery.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cqbakery/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chiuquonbakery/

You can buy steamed buns, cookies, moon cakes, and more at this bakery that also has a location in Chinatown. Located right next to the CTA train stop, Chiu Quon’s big sign with the bold red letters is likely to be one of the first things you see when you get to Argyle via the metro.

Street Art

In addition to eating and cafe hopping, the other main thing to do in Argyle is to admire the street art. There’s an overarching theme of celebrating the diversity and the many cultures that make up the neighborhood, which is expressed through a variety of artistic styles.

Uptown Beyond Argyle

Argyle may only span a couple blocks, but the larger district it’s located in, Uptown, is pretty large. It’s close to the lakefront and has a lot of interesting architecture, so I may write a blog post about Uptown in the coming months. If I do, I’ll be sure to link it here!

In addition, Uptown has such a vibrant food scene that extends beyond Asian cuisine. For example, this part of town seems to be home to a number of Ethiopian restaurants. I’ve only tried one so far, but the food was amazing! I really hope to explore more of Uptown this fall and winter.

Go Visit Argyle!

This little part of the city may not make it onto every visitor’s radar when they come to Chicago, but I’d guess that it’s one of America’s best destinations for Vietnamese and Southeast Asian cuisine. It’s also an area worth supporting, learning about, and experiencing for yourself!

Have you been to Argyle before? Do you have a favorite restaurant here? Leave a comment below and let me know! Thanks for reading!

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This post was published on July 30, 2021

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Susie S.

    The food looks so delish, and those murals are amazing! Can’t wait to see the pho blog!

  2. We enjoyed our visit to Chicago. But did not get to visit Asia on Argyle. I can see we missed some great Pho options. And so many other tasty noodle options. It would be great to try some Thai pastry treats.

  3. Sarah Wilson

    I love Vietnamese food. You have listed most of my favourites here and as I’m more likely to get to Chicago than Vietnam in the near future, I’m saving this. Had no idea this was available- everyone always tells me Chicago is for pizza and steak – now I know different.

  4. Josy A

    Argh Kevin you are making me so flipping hungry! I LOVE Vietnamese food, even though I have never been to Vietnam (I want to!) Vancouver has pretty good Vietnamese food, so I have tried most of these, apart from Mì Quảng. If I head to Chicago this would be right up my alley!

    I love Ethiopian food too, so I am glad you mentioned that. 😀

  5. I have never been to Vietnam. This has been an educational post for me. Would love to explore Vietnam when travel restrictions will be lifted off. Those are some really mouth-watering dishes!

  6. Wow, there is so much food to try in Asia on Argyle. I love rice dishes, so I’d be keen to try some Vietnamese meals that I’ve never had before. Bun Thit Nurong looks and sounds so good! I think it’d make a nice day, wandering the street art and finding a nice meal along the way. You could definitely visit multiple times and try new restaurants each time.

  7. CHELSEA MESSINA

    I can’t believe for all the times I’ve been to Chicago, I’ve never heard/been to Argyle. I have been missing out! The food looks delicious. Thanks for sharing this! Next trip to Chi, I know where I’m going!

  8. Kez

    All of the food and art looks so wonderful. I’m interested to know the history of the Chiu Quon Bakery, because the Chinese says it’s a restaurant. Was it a restaurant in the past?

    1. That’s a good question! They may have had a dine-in area before the pandemic, or their Chinatown location might offer some sit-down dining. It’s not really a 茶餐廳, though!

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