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Restaurants & Bars 9

Humbled on Argyle Street

CoolerbytheLake | Jan 31, 200311:55 AM

Prior to learning about this site, I had considered myself a fairly knowledgeable and adventurous fan of unique, out-of-the-way food spots. As I stood on the corner of Sheridan and Argyle, eating my first banh mi with tears in my eyes, I realized I didn't know squat. It's a humbling thing to discover that the city is a lot bigger than you had previously perceived it to be. I know now that I have only nibbled at the edges of food adventuring--fooling myself into thinking I was blazing trails by frequenting funky places--assuming they were on my way to work/home/friend's house/psychic healer/AA sponsor/bookie (just kidding about some of those). I would feel terribly cosmopolitan as I strolled down Devon Avenue in a state of utter confusion, ordering things based on the moral equivalent of spinning a roulette wheel. This site has given me the road map and confidence to head to new areas and eat wonderful new things that I never knew existed. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of the people who make this site what it is. I believe I'm hooked.

Enough of that. On to the food. Aforementioned banh mi (ordered the one with the works as suggested) was had at Bale's Bakery and Sandwich Shop at 4940 N. Sheridan. Keeping in mind that I have no frame of reference, what I loved about it is that it was at once exotic yet reassuringly familiar. French baguette and the Vietnamese approximation of cold cuts provided the touchstones to the familiar while the bean spread and daikon pickles announced in no uncertain terms that I was not in Kansas anymore--or even the North Loop for that matter. I can't wait to try others there like the roasted pork. I love the husband and wife proprietors, who were enjoying a meal of their own at a little table tucked in right among the store offerings. In my excitement, I nearly ponied up $4.50 to purchase a whitish, still warm bologna-type sausage wrapped in what looked like a banana leaf or seaweed casing, and what "Mrs. Bale" cheerfully and insistently described as "pork!" I love this place.

After finishing the sandwich in my car and driving away from Argyle, I realized that I hadn't had my fill of this wondrous area, so I u-turned and headed back, targeting another Chowhound suggestion for pho at Pho 777. This was also a revelation. I took it to go and had to assemble it at home, but I was sufficiently amazed and humbled once again at the complex interplay between the earthy beef flavor throughout and the playful notes of the basil, jalapeno, sprouts, pepper sauce and other additions. I'll be a frequent visitor to the area now, so if you happen to see a euphoric-looking guy with stars in his eyes, taking him by the elbow and lead him directly to your favorite pho place. Thanks again...

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