Ever since I turned 40, my husband Tom, number one son Jake, and I have been going to hole-in-the-wall restaurants for my birthday. We’ve done Ethiopian, Costa Rican, Korean, and last night Vietnamese.
We trekked out to New Chinatown, an area on the northside of Chicago where my family and I would shop and eat in the 1980s. Settled by ethic Chinese from Vietnam, this area was closer to my childhood home than the older Chinatown that was founded in 1912. Our favorite restaurant back then was Mekong, a red-and-white-checkered tablecloth eatery on the corner of Argyle and Broadway.
We started with shrimp spring rolls and these stuffed shrimp cakes.
Jake and I ordered pho. Tom had a noodle dish (sans soup) with chicken, beef, and seafood. Here’s my bowl of pho tai, or pho with beef slices. It’s the plainest item on the pho menu.
But Jake didn’t hold back, and ordered the XL Tank pho, complete with tripe, tendons, beef balls, beef brisket, and beef slices.
For dessert, we ordered “sweetie” banana cake.
It was nice to be in familiar territory again. Although I’ve lived back in Chicago for 13 years now, I haven’t spent enough time revisiting old childhood haunts. No better time than for a birthday!