Earlier last week, I stopped off at another my favorite Argyle Street noodle haunts, Double Happiness. Double Happiness falls distinctly into the greasy spoon category, as one takes in the faded wood paneling, tacky laminated tables, and sticky linoleum floor. During the warmer months, the picture is rendered complete by the spectacle of an elderly proprietor sitting at the front counter attired in a wife beater t-shirt, slippers, and long pants. He will remain etched in my memory engaged in one of two pursuits: figuring out sums on an abacus, or idly flipping a fly swatter. A casual glance around the single dining room will discern a distinct family resemblance linking him and the three or four wait persons hovering to take your order. Nothing about this scene has changed for me during the last seven years Ive visited Double Happiness, including the decor. Double Happiness is not the only noodle joint on Argyle, but it could very well be the oldest, or if not, the most static.
At lunchtime during the weekends, Double Happiness is usually crowded as the grocery shopping crowd blithely ignores the drab surroundings in favor of a simple menu offering good noodles to be had cheaply. Pho noodle soups do not make an appearance amongst the twenty or so items listed on the laminated card, but rather variations on a theme predominate, featuring chicken broth, noodles, and the occasional wonton. Like most of the noodle shops on Argyle, Double Happiness will let you have your noodle soup your way: you can choose to substitute a specific noodle type (fat or thin, egg(yellow) or rice(white)), and you can choose to have the broth served separately (i.e. ordering a dry version of the dish). Beyond that, there is the usual array of appetizers and fruit drinks to be found elsewhere on Argyle.
I usually order the #6 Hu Tieu Mi Thap Cam, which consists of mixed egg and rice noodles tossed with a shrimp, some iceberg lettuce, slices of squid, and fish balls. Chopped pork lends character to the broth, which I otherwise find to be somewhat thin, and needful of a heaping teaspoonful of fried garlic, which is near at hand. Lately, Ive ordered this dish dry, substituted broad egg noodles for the thin Cantonese variety, and ladled chili powder and fried garlic on top with abandon. You can also opt for item #3, Bun Mi Banh Tom, which is essentially the same mixed noodle soup garnished with a single shrimp deep-fried in seasoned batter. One of the waitstaff recommended the #13 Ha Chiu Tieu Chau, a shrimp and pork roll made with water chestnut flour, wrapped in bean curd skin and deep fried. Given its description, I had heightened expectations, but found the shrimp to be entirely overwhelmed by the deep frying and the water chestnut flavor to be so subtle that it hardly mattered in the final analysis. Accompanying the shrimp roll was a sickly sweet plum sauce which Ive learned to studiously avoid. A much better alternative would be to choose #9 Tieu Chau Radish Cake with Egg, which features a steamed, whitish, oblong rectangle made from daikon radish, which is then pan-fried with scrambled eggs and plenty of scallions.
Apparently, there are other dishes not to be found on the minimalist menu. A Vietnamese friend I roomed with several years ago, first brought me to Double Happiness despite my initial misgivings over the non-existent decor. He pointed to a sign on the wall written in Vietnamese, asserting that it advertised a specialty of the house, namely cow penis soup. To this day, I have not worked up the courage to verify this claim for fear of inadvertently ordering the dish. If any Chowhounds should choose to investigate this further, please report your findings.
1061 W Argyle St