Pho and Pizza Puffs on Ashland
The city saw a little rush in restaurants opening by younger Asian chefs late last year. I've mentioned in previous posts how the next generation of restaurateurs are opening spots where they specialize in the food of the chef/owners youth. When Phodega opened on Ashland just South of North avenue in Wicker Park they become one of the few spots to find pho outside of the Argyle area of Uptown.
Newly Opened in Wicker Park
The Phodega name is a mashup of pho and bodega. The two young co-owners of Phodega wanted to create a unique take on the neighborhood bodega. So aside from a small menu that focuses in on Pho and Hainanese Chicken Rice they also stock the walls with groceries you might find in a bodega. Aside from toilet paper and such they also sell Asian snacks from countries like Japan and Korea. Items usually found at the Suburban Asian grocers in the city's Northwest suburbs and such.
Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)
Phodega make two types of pho using one of the owners old family recipes. You can get Pho Bo (beef) or Pho Ga (chicken). My wife very much liked the chicken and you can say the same for me with the beef. One thing a good bowl of pho must have going for it is the temperature itself. Some spots cant figure out how to serve you a steaming hot bowl. Phodega delivered on that end. The other thing I think is essential is the freshness of the plate of herbs served with your bowl of pho. Phodega had fresh basil, mint, bean sprouts, jalapeno, and lime. The latter two let you decide how you want to personalize your own bowl. I like to throw it all in there. The broth was clean while both the sliced ribeye and brisket were tender. I'm usually not a fan of the Vietnamese beef meatballs found in pho but these were appealing. There was a nice amount of rice noodles too. A very satisfying bowl.
Pho Bo at Phodega
I returned with my wife a few weeks after my initial visit. That time I decided to try the chicken combo plate featuring both Hainanese Chicken Rice and fried chicken. The chicken rice recipe comes from one of the co-owners moms who is Singaporean. Chicken rice has become very popular over the years and is found at more and more spots outside of SE Asia where each country has their own little version. It's a simple dish made from poached chicken which when made also makes the stock which the rice is then cooked in. Most spots will serve it with a bowl of the broth which diners can use to dip both the chicken and rice. It's Asian comfort food at it's finest. Phodega makes a pretty good batch and it pairs well with the fried chicken though I would've liked a bit more. As you can see in the picture below I got about a half of a thigh worth of fried bird. The rice / broth were excellent together. If you don't like Vietnamese comfort food they also sell pizza puffs, instant noodles, and rolling papers.
Hainan Chicken and Fried Chicken Combo
1547 N Ashland Ave
Chicago, IL 60622