The Argyle Street Melting Pot
“Is this Chinatown?!” You’ll hear it from newbies, suburbanites in town for a Cubs game, or even from Chicagoans not native to the North Side. As the red line lumbers past Argyle, noses press against windows and questions fly around the busy train car. And, I must admit, a lot of us that live near the neighborhood aren’t sure what to call it, either.
This small area of Uptown, right off the Argyle red line stop, goes by many names, so you’d have a good chance of being right if you guessed at an answer to impress an attractive suburban infiltrator. My internet searching and talking with Chicagoans turned up the following results: New Chinatown, Little Chinatown, Little Saigon, New Saigon, Little Cambodia, Vietnamese Town, and Little Vietnam. Now, my undergraduate liberal lefty education makes me cringe at this, and I want to demand a consensus. Not all Asian countries are alike! They all have their own unique foods, languages, and traditions! Yet, this confusion, I learned, does not speak to a privileged Western view of the East in which we have failed to extend autonomy and agency to others unlike ourselves (how’s that, PhDs?). This area is perhaps the best example of the “melting pot” concept we were taught about in third grade social studies that I’ve ever seen.
Walking this strip, you will actually see Chinese, Vietnamese, French Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants. Tiny shops sell Asian gifts and wholesale restaurant wares, and numerous salons dot the landscape. Bakeries send wafts of sweet scents out onto the street as their doors bang open, their jangling bells mingling with the cart vendor hawking his grub and the rattle of the L above. Many families call this area home, and often you’ll have to make your way around a line of school kids or a brigade of strollers.
While Chicago as a whole offers a slice from countless countries and regions of the world, this tiny stretch of Argyle, from Sheridan to Broadway, brings several in contact with one another. I can only imagine what delicious Asian fusion might be created when a French Vietnamese restaurant owner gets chummy with the Thai restaurant owner next door. Get each other’s mail a couple times and soon you’re complaining about the Alderman. Next, you’re sharing recipes.
Here are several restaurants that come highly recommended in the area. 享受 / thưởng thức / Enjoy!
5016 N. Broadway
Pho Xe Tang (Tank Noodle Restaurant)
4953 N. Broadway
1137 W. Argyle
Hai Yen Restaurant
1055 W. Argyle
Chiu Quon Bakery
1127 W. Argyle
1109 W. Argyle