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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
This post was published on July 30, 2021