4953 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Pho Xe Tang, popularly known as Tank Noodle, is a staple of Chicago’s Vietnamese Argyle neighborhood and our go-to place for Vietnamese cuisine in Chicago. Though this area has no shortage of places that do pho very well – Pho 777 and Pho 888 spring immediately to mind – we always end up coming back to Tank Noodle (there is a fish tank in the corner, from which we suspect the restaurant gets its name). We have introduced many of our friends to Vietnamese food here, and everyone has come away happy. Be warned: the menu is, well, gargantuan. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the seeming laundry-list of Vietnamese dishes, but we are still searching for something they don’t make well here, and there are options for every palette, from vegan to carnivorous and everything in between. Of course, you will see most people ordering pho, though you can also get stone pot dishes, noodles, and bánh mì sandwiches.
Though it is easy to get bogged down in choices, we have a few go-to options to which we always return. Lindsay enjoys her lemongrass noodle bowl, a light cool dish that is especially good in summer months. Matt also enjoys #195, the the Hot and Spicy Sour Chicken Soup, which comes with an ingredient list that reads like a paragraph: “pineapple, lime leaves, hot pepper, tamarind, okra, Alocasia odora, culantro, sour bamboo, basils, rice paddy herb, dried onion, garlic pork oil.” The flavor combinations are exciting and seemingly unique to this dish. Spice it up with some chili sauce, peppers, and more lime juice, and it’s a great winter soup / full meal anytime. Get the “small” – at $12.95 it is enough food for two days. We don’t even want to know how big the large is ($18.95).
In the winter, however, you have to go with the pho. The most popular choice always appears to be beef pho. You can decide what kind of meat you want in the pho, ranging from sliced steak to tendons. While you can select to get a small or large size, much like with Matt’s soup, unless you are sharing with 3 other people (and maybe you are) the “small” is plenty large enough for even the biggest appetite. Though the broth is heavenly, our favorite part of pho is really the platter of garnishes that comes with it. On the plate you get Thai basil, culantro ( a fascinating herb that tastes like cilantro but looks like a stalk of grass), sprouts, lime wedges (cut the right way by taking out the white pith in the center) and hot peppers. Of course, to go the extra mile to make your pho spicy you can add some house-made chili sauce and fresh jalapeño peppers.
If you have a large group, it is absolutely essential to have reservations, since this place can get packed to the gills, especially after 7pm on Fridays and weekends. It’s also fun to sit at the large table with the lazy susans. When we were there with a group of eight people on a Friday night, a huge line loomed behind us. Thank goodness for that reservation.