If you said that pho and I have had an inconsistent relationship, you’d be right.
The first time I tried it I wasn’t a huge fan. The broth-heavy Vietnamese take on noodle soup just didn’t overwhelm me. But if you fast forward to my next pho experience a few months later, add liberal squirts of Sriracha and chilli oil, and factor in the fact that it was a cold day and my nose was running – well, you’ve made me a bona fide pho lover.
That experience made me discover pho for what it is: A delicious comfort food that hasn’t met a cold or cough it can’t beat.
Since then I’ve tried pho at a few places. Sometimes it tastes heavenly, sometimes it just doesn’t hit the mark. Who knows – maybe that lack of consistency has something to do with the fact that pho can be drastically altered by the things the diner adds to it (fish sauce, bean sprouts and basil are a few examples of common additions.)
But I digress. Tank Noodle, a tiny BYO in Uptown is often called the home of Chicago’s best pho. It’s a casual place but a popular one – they’ve packed the tables in this restaurant uncomfortably close to one another, but finding a table is still a challenge.
I stopped in to Tank Noodle on a chilly Thursday evening. There were no tables available so I sat at an eight-seater right next to a few perfect strangers. I wasn’t willing to wait for a smaller table to open up; my pho craving was too urgent.
I put in an order of #47, pho with sliced beef – I’m an adventurous eater but I wasn’t up for some of the more daring options. For example: Cow’s penis appears on the menu.
It didn’t disappoint: The rich broth packed an unfamiliar flavor and the beef was tender and sliced into perfectly thin pieces. The noodles floating around in the broth were abundant, not too thick and a great base for all that flavor. Also, the serving of pho was enormous. As you can see, I finished almost all of mine. If that isn’t a good sign, I don’t know what is.
I definitely enjoyed my Tank Noodle meal. Is it the best pho in Chicago? I don’t know. It certainly beat another experience I’ve had with the same dish – a delivery order from another Vietnamese restaurant. It’s been a few months and I don’t remember the name of that place, but I will say this – in my opinion, pho should be enjoyed at the restaurant.
As for Tank Noodle…
I think you should:
Try it. I predict you’ll have a delicious, comforting and casual meal if you do.
Go with: A group of people. There are a few tables large enough to seat a group. That way you can try a few of the apps as well as the pho. I got the tofu spring rolls and would recommend them to basil lovers.
Wear: Sweats, jeans, whatever. This isn’t much of a scene.
Go on a: Weekday. Make it a lunch stop to avoid the crowd.
Bring: Wine/beer. It’s BYO, but their huge smoothie selection may be a better accompaniment to your food.
Eat the: Pho, obviously. It’s the restaurant’s pride and joy for good reason. And if you’re brave enough to go for the cow’s penis, please let me know how it was.
4953 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60640