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South Side Cheap Eats: The Noodle

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Oct 4, 2006 2:30PM

2006_10_noodle3.jpgMost fearless gourmands head to Argyle Street for a taste of Vietnamese food. Lucky for us, when we feel particularly lazy, all we need to do is travel a few minutes east.

The Noodle is located in Chinatown, about as far south on Wentworth as visitors head down while still feeling safe. They've been in business for close to three years, and this was our first time visiting the place. As you can see on the awning in the lead photograph, the Noodle specializes in phở. For the unfamiliar, phở (pronounced "fuh") is a Vietnamese noodle soup. It's made with a broth, normally prepared from beef stock, oxtails, flank steak, sometimes chicken bones, and spices such as cinnamon, star anise, and ginger. The broth is poured over clear rice noodles, and thin cuts of beef, lean and fatty flank, and well-done brisket are added. Some recipes add tendons, tripe, or organs.

Phở is pretty much a kitchen sink dish, and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Recipes vary like snowflakes - no two are truly alike, and chefs often throw anything at their disposal into the mix. Resultingly, the quality of phở can range from a religious experience, to something so vile that it triggers your gag reflex once it's set in front of you. Over the years, savvy chefs have made concessions to finicky American tastes, offering chicken and vegetarian phở options.

2006_10_noodle2.jpgIt was reassuring to see that the Noodle's menu offers a wide range of phở to choose from. We ordered ours with beef, lean and fatty flank, brisket, and tendon. We were served this slightly salty broth, with hints of ginger, that allowed us to take in the tangy flavor of the flanks, complemented with copious amounts of green and red onions, and vermicelli-style rice noodles. On a separate plate we were served bean sprouts, lime, chiles, and basil, to season the broth to our taste. All we needed was some chile, lime, and hoisin sauce (a bottle of that and sriracha hot sauce are on every table). The waitresses at the Noodle were also reassuring to customers who had never tried phở before, but were curious enough to ask what to expect.

Phở at the Noodle is cheap on the pocketbook. The large bowl we ordered cost $6.50, and could easily feed three. For the tourist in all of us, the Noodle also offers some nice appetizers, rolls, and entrees that won't upset queasy stomachs. They also offer as many options of boba teas, smoothies, coffees, and teas, as they do phở.

The next time you find yourself in Chinatown and want to try something different, have some phở at the Noodle. They're located at 2336 S. Wentworth. Their phone number is (312) 674-1168, and they're open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., seven days a week.