There’s a lot to love about Uptown—including Asia on Argyle, the Aragon Ballroom, and one of Chicago’s most conveniently located Targets. Thankfully this neighborhood also has some great food. From pho to chilaquiles to pad see ew, here are our favorites.
Randomly point at any dish on In-On Thai’s menu and you’ll hit something that’s worth ordering. That’s because everything we’ve eaten here is great. That said, there are a few stand-out dishes you shouldn’t miss. In particular, we like the crispy fish jungle salad, the wonderfully spicy red curry, and the fantastic pad see ew - which has perfectly chewy noodles with just the right amount of char and a not-too-sweet sauce.
Pho 777 is one of the best spots to go in the West Argyle Historic District to try a wide range of northern Vietnamese dishes. Besides all of their pho options, which are all excellent, some of our favorite things on the menu are the bún chả Hà Nội and chả cá lá vọng. But really, it’s impossible to go wrong with anything here involving noodles.
DaNang Kitchen specializes in central Vietnamese food and there are a lot of things to like about this casual spot on West Argyle. But it’s the mì quảng that keeps bringing us back all the time. Mì Quảng consists of chewy, turmeric-based rice noodle and a handful of fresh herbs (basil, banana flower, cilantro, perilla, and Vietnamese coriander to name just a few) sitting in a shallow, strong broth, topped with shrimp, pork, quail eggs, peanuts, and a crunchy, black and white speckled sesame rice cracker that brings the whole thing together. Go order a bowl immediately.
Iyanze Bar And Cafe
You can mix and match a wide variety of Nigerian stews, starches, meats, fish, and mollusks at Iyanze—a staple of Uptown’s West African food scene. The food is prepared from scratch daily and served cafeteria-style. Get whatever looks good to you that day, and a couple of extra scoops in case you can’t make a decision.
There’s no wrong way to order at Pho Viet, but no matter what you get at this casual spot on North Broadway, make sure to start with the bánh bèo chén. These toothy, almost al dente steamed rice cakes are topped with green onion, a delicate sprinkle of shrimp, and a crunch of crispy pork skin. Add a spoon of sweet and savory nước mắm for a perfect bite.
Tank Noodle is a popular spot for Vietnamese food in Uptown. There’s an extensive menu that will make you want to order a lot, and it’s all good. Get everything from pho bowls, congee, and rice dishes to banh mi.
You come to this large Chinese spot for duck. Specifically, the expertly prepared Beijing roast duck dinner. The feast includes a whole duck with perfectly crispy skin, sliced and served with steamed bao buns, pickled daikon, and hoisin sauce. The rest of the bird is used to make duck fried rice or duck noodles. Finally, the bones are rendered into a duck broth soup with winter melon, cilantro, and eggs as the finishing course. In other words, it will put your dry Thanksgiving turkey to shame.
Lucy’s is on the corner of Wilson and Broadway, but you can’t miss it. This diner is painted with colorful rainbows, peace signs, and a redheaded logo that might remind you of Wendy. They keep it simple, with a short menu focusing on perfectly seasoned fried chicken sandwiches, burgers, fries, and milkshakes. We can confirm, their dedication to the art of diner food has definitely paid off.
VN Tofu is a small Vietnamese spot in the West Argyle Historic District that we like to stop by for a snack or a quick lunch. Besides anything with the excellent tofu, our favorite things here are the bánh giò (pyramid-shaped steamed rice “cakes” filled with seasoned pork and mushrooms) and the bánh cuốn (steamed rice crepe rolls with the same filling), which is perfect for dipping into nước mắm for a savory breakfast or snack.
The menu at Silver Seafood includes crab, fish, shrimp, mussels, frog, lobsters, and basically every other water-adjacent creature you can think of. And the long, reasonably-priced carryout menu (dishes range from $10-$15) provides a good opportunity to order a little bit of everything for to-go. Which we’ll have to settle for until we can return to their ballroom for a big group dinner.
Want something delicious for breakfast, that also makes you feel like a responsible citizen of the earth? Try Tweet. Almost everything here (from benedicts to pancakes to breakfast burritos) is deep inhale hormone-free, antibiotic-free and organic. And damn good, too.
Something about Golden House feels super familiar. The first time we visited we couldn’t quite put our finger on it, so we just pondered over our breakfast until the lightbulb went off. This place is actually Patsy’s Pies from Shameless. So come here for the pancakes, but stay for the Gallagher flashbacks. Plus the friendly staff is awesome, and will instantly make you feel like a regular.
Cafe Hoang in the West Argyle Historic District serves a lot of great dishes, but it’s their bún bò Huế that keeps us coming back here all the time. This spicy, flavorful beef noodle soup has strong notes of lemongrass and chili that help mellow out the beefy richness of the broth. The rice noodles are thick and round, and slippery, yet firm. The variety of cuts of beef and pork in the dish also adds a ton of depth.
Pick Me Up Café
All the good stuff, much of said good stuff, in vegetarian or vegan form. In fact, when Pick Me Up Cafe opened in Lakeview in 1997, it was one of the few restaurants in the city to cater to vegans and vegetarians. They’ve since moved neighborhoods, but they still know a thing or two about being cheeseless and meatless. We’re talking things like mac and cheese, nachos, shakes, soups, sandwiches, wraps, French toast, scrambles, and all of it delicious.
Demera has some of the best messobs and injera in the city, and this upscale Ethiopian spot also hasa full bar. Plus, it's also available to-go. This means you can order the messob dinner for four, and make it a dinner for one. Take it home, lay it out, and enjoy your giant meal all by yourself.
This Mexican restaurant specializes in Oaxacan cuisine, a.k.a. the region of Mexico that brought us some of our favorite moles (like the rojo and negro) and antojitos. Everything on the menu is delicious, but while you’re here be sure to order one of their specialties: tlayudas, ceviches, birria, and chilacayota—a squash aguas frescas perfect for fall.
Pho is great at any time of day, but it’s especially wonderful on cold days when you want something warm to jump-start your body besides a triple latte. Luckily, Le’s Pho starts serving at 7:30am. Besides being open early enough for breakfast, we like Le’s because though they give you plenty of fresh Thai basil, onion, bean sprouts, lime, and jalapeno to customize your soup, it’s so flavorful that you even skip the extras and enjoy it on its own.
Ba Le Sandwiches is perfect for a quick bahn mi pick me up. There are 16 different sandwiches on the menu of this counter-service spot, including vegan and vegetarian options. You can eat your way through the entire menu (we have) and count on your bahn mi being fantastic - served on crusty french bread, and paired with crisp pickled daikon, carrot, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño. Plus, they have deli cases full of buns, sausages, meats, and pastries so you can grab pre-packaged food to take home.
This is a good stop when you want to grab a quick bowl of noodle soup on your way home. It’s small and cute, and has excellent pho with a slightly sweet broth and fresh noodles.
Nha Trang is a casual spot in the West Argyle Historic District serving predominantly southern Vietnamese dishes. Nem nướng, charcoal-grilled pork on skewers, exists in many different variations throughout Vietnam, but the version from Nhà Trang is notable for its notes of tangy sweetness. Nem nướng Nhà Trang is a DIY-wrap dish: roll up some grilled pork with fresh herbs, rice noodles, and a crispy cylindrical rice cracker for a satisfying crunch, and dip it in the signature orange-colored, nước chấm dipping sauce.
Hing Wang Restaurant
While we haven’t been to every single Chinese restaurant in the city, we feel pretty strongly that Hing Wang’s “best fried rice in town” sign isn’t just an advertisement. The fantastic spicy beef fried rice is the stuff of neighborhood legend. Just ask any Uptowner or student from Truman College. Hing Wang has been the people’s choice since the ’90s.
Kung Fu Tea
You’ll find over 60 different varieties of hot & cold teas, punches, slushes, and espressos at this boba tea spot. Kung Fu Teas (very) thorough menu means you can basically try a different boba every day for two months, so you’d be hard-pressed not to find at least one drink you love. Fun fact: the to-go cups have vacuum-sealed lids.
This is a casual restaurant serving fantastic Thai street food—you’ll find a long menu of curries, noodle dishes, grilled meats, and six different papaya salads. They clearly understand that when everything is good it’s hard choose what to order, so there’s even a section called “Thai Dinner Table” where you can order tasting portions of different dishes, along with rice (or noodles for curries). It’s easy to keep adding on to the order, which is definitely what you’ll end up doing.
Nha Hang is a very small Vietnamese restaurant, and we have no idea how they manage to keep up with their incredibly long menu—but they do. There are over 200 dishes to try, and it would probably take you a year to get through all of them. We recommend starting with the squid salad, clay-pot pork and shrimp, and the bun mam (a seafood soup).
Hai Yen in the West Argyle Historic District has plenty of things to choose from on its menu, but the first thing we go for at this casual spot is the bò 5 món (beef 5 ways). Considered a higher-end dish fit for a celebration, bò 5 món consists of the following: 1) Gỏi bò, a cold salad of shredded papaya and carrot, with beef; 2) Bò nhúng dấm, a fondue-like dish with sliced raw beef dipped into heated sweet vinegar; 3) Bò nướng mỡ chài, grilled sausages of ground beef wrap in caul—a fatty, rich delight—wrapped in rice paper with rice noodles, fresh vegetables and herbs; 4) Bò lá lốt, ground beef sausages wrapped in the lá lốt leaf (known as “wild betel leaf”) and grilled and 5) Bò nướng sả, grilled beef with lemongrass, also eaten in a rice paper wrap. Yes, we know that's a lot of information, but we really want you to come here and order this dish.
Pho Loan in the West Argyle Historic District has lots of great things on its menu from across Vietnam, but we always end up here for the specialties that come from the southern end of the country in the Mekong Delta. Here that especially means bún cá trà vinh: a bright fish broth flavored with lemongrass and topped with rice noodles, fish cakes, catfish fillet, water spinach, shredded cabbage, and an herbal pop of fresh mint.
Kal’ish is an all-day vegan comfort food spot serving things like burgers, pulled pork sandwiches made with jackfruit, and (seitan) chicken and waffles. Overall it’s a reminder that vegan food isn’t necessarily healthy, which is just fine by us.
The other location of this old-school Chinese bakery is in Chinatown, and we’re really glad there’s one on the North Side. This place is fantastic, and you can’t go wrong with anything from their pastry case. They have incredible pork buns, sponge cakes, sesame balls, egg custards, and much more. Everything is made fresh daily, and there are plenty of tables inside, too. Just plan ahead it’s cash-only.
There are other things on the menu at Tiztal, but you’re really there for their fantastic chilaquiles, made with fresh chips, chihuahua cheese, and a delicious green salsa. They come with eggs and your choice of meat, and you should choose chorizo.