A few weeks back I mentioned spotting, at high speed from Milwaukee Ave. at Golf, a cluster of Asian-looking businesses, not unlike International Mall. Today I was close enough to there that I decided to investigate further.
The first strip mall I drove through is called Rayyan Plaza II, which had a couple of things-- a hair care place, maybe, and a sushi restaurant. Not the main thing I had spotted however, so I didn't stop.
Just south of there was what I took to be the main Asian mall-- a grocery store called Farmers Best Market, two of those World Buffet-type places, and a variety of smaller shops in between.
I tried Farmers Best Market first-- and found that it wasn't Asian at all. It appears to be Greek-owned but heavily catering to the Russian and Polish crowd (with Hispanic thrown in) around there, much like the Jerry's Fruit Farm a little south of there, or like Caputo's for the Italian neighborhoods. Usually those kinds of places are good for beating the high prices at Whole Paycheck, but you know you're getting a second tier of produce; worth it if you're getting a pound of medium-size cherries for $2 instead of fat perfect ones for $7, however.
I have to say, though, that this place really impressed me; the produce section had a lot of thinsg you don't see at Jewel (pomegranates, persimmons, boniatos-- aren't those the real yams that the sweet potatos we call yams aren't?), as well as a lot of good-looking and smelling apples, pears etc. The bakery had stuff from several of the best ethnic bakeries (Argo, Baltic, Grotsi or whatever that one on Central is), and the meat department looked like it had a lot of interesting ethnic sausages and meats of pretty high quality. In short, this looked to me to be a cut above the usual ethnic supermarket in every direction, and well worth a return visit.
As it turns out, that's the reason you'd want to go to this mall; there wasn't much else, and as an Asian destination it was a bust, since beyond that it had one decent Korean-Japanese market (smaller than Diho, much smaller than Mitsuwa), another tiny meat/fish market I didn't go in, and the only two restaurants were a World Buffet and a New China Buffet, one of whose authenticity was demonstrated by the sign announcing "Comidas Mexican."
I drove on and was reconciling myself to eating Wendy's after a stop at REI (just south of Golf), but sure enough right next to it I found what looked like a much better choice than World Buffet-- a place called, somewhat nonsensically, Le Saigon de Manila. (What sense it does make comes from the fact that they have both Vietnamese and Filipino items. Still, a little close to La Maison de la Casa House.) I was a little concerned at first by the fact that it not only seemed to be a mostly Anglo crowd, but that the people at the next table were talking about-- I swear to God-- Orange Garden on Irving Park, and not only said "It's like a time warp from the 50s" (which I would agree with) but "And it's really good too" (which I would not). Oh, and the fact that it had a bandstand.
But, when my shrimp with lemon grass (which was mainly shrimp with onion) arrived, it was fairly spicy and plenty full of stinky fish sauce. So not too Americanized. Anyway, not a bad place to stop after picking up your blood sausage and persimmons at Farmers Best Market.
Farmers Best Market
8526 W. Golf Road
Niles, IL 60714
Le Saigon De Manila Restaurant
8211 W. Golf Road
Niles, IL 60714
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