If you’re craving great Asian food in Chicago, you may be tempted to head to Chinatown. But before you jump on the Red Line and head south, think about traveling in the opposite direction to explore the Asian cuisine offerings along Argyle Street on the North Side. There are so many excellent Uptown restaurants to choose from, including Chinese cuisine, Thai, Vietnamese, and more. Dubbed “Little Saigon” for the many Vietnamese restaurants, you may find the stretch overwhelming, so here are five delicious Uptown options for Asian cuisine to help narrow things down.
Sun Wah BBQ
Walking into this vast and bustling Uptown restaurant, you’re first greeted by ducks hanging in the window. At Sun Wah BBQ, Beijing duck is the specialty. They also have possibly the tastiest big, fat, crispy egg rolls in the city and a pages-long menu with everything from pork ribs to congee, but you’ll want to experience their duck service. Ideal for three to four people, the duck is rolled in on a cart and is carved tableside before being served with steamed bao, pickled daikon radish, carrots, and hoisin sauce. The rest is then taken to the kitchen to be made into duck fried rice and duck soup that’s returned to your table. It’s recommended you order this off-menu item ahead of time.
Pho, in addition to being delicious, is also a cure-all. The beef broth at Tank Noodle is some of the best around, whether you’re trying to kick a cold, nurse a hangover, or nourish your soul. The huge menu offers a number of soup options (as well as noodle, rice, seafood, meat, and vegetable dishes), but their signature pho, served with sliced beef, brisket, flank steak, meatballs, tendon, and tripe, is the one to get. A bountiful plate of basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeños comes with it and you can add as much or as little of the extras as you’d like.
The facade, just around the corner from one of the largest Asian cuisine markets in the area, may seem a little drab, but walk in and that all changes. The Thai offerings at this restaurant are wonderfully aromatic and flavorful—and can also pack quite a punch depending on how spicy you want it. At Thai Pastry, you can get typical dishes like pad Thai or lad nah, but venture deeper to explore their specialties like deep-fried whole red snapper with hot pepper sauce, or spicy green curry with eggplant and basil in coconut milk. Their lunch special is also one of the best deals around for Uptown restaurants. And, of course, be sure to hit their pastry case filled with various cakes and cookies before you leave.
A quaint bakery in the middle of the Argyle strip, LaPatisserie P is a showcase of chef/owner Peter Yuen, who has worked at some of Chicago’s top hotels like the Four Seasons and the Sofitel, where he was head baker. Whether it’s bread or pastries you’re looking for, you can find beautiful croissants, danishes, and lemon custard tarts. But you’ll also find authentic Asian pastries like Filipino breads, including ensaymada and pan de coco, cakes like red bean paste cake, and a nice variety of different sweet and savory buns filled with pork, chicken, coconut, and a lot more.
Before the banh mi trend seemingly exploded in Chicago in the last few years, Ba Le was the place to get authentic crusty Vietnamese baguette sandwiches. With more than 40 years’ experience in the US, the Vo family continues its tradition of making fresh sandwiches daily with pickled daikon, carrot, onion, cilantro, and jalapenos; and your choice of chicken, ham, shrimp, or pork, prepared as barbecue, lemongrass, or roasted. You can also get meatball, rib eye, and pate banh mi, but they also offer vegan and vegetarian options. Don’t leave without at least checking out the French Vietnamese pastries in the case up front.