One of the city's most eclectic and colorful neighborhoods, Uptown is a haven for culture. This lakeside nook is quieter and less expensive than it's splashier neighbors such as Andersonville and Lakeview, but its dining scene is just as rich. From Argyle Street's Vietnamese enclave to cute cafes and brunch spots, Uptown offers a delicious smorgasbord of options for every hankering. The neighborhood is accessible via the Red Line or busses running along Broadway, Lawrence Avenue, and Clark Street.
No better way to start your day than with breakfast at Tweet. This place has been a breakfast and brunch staple in Uptown since before Twitter monopolized the term "tweet." Proprietor Michelle Fire has established her restaurant as a pillar of comfort in the ‘hood, and herself as a matriarchal figurehead, warmly welcoming guests and making them feel at home in her vibrant restaurant. Each meal starts off with complimentary slivers of moist spice cake, as guests mull over everything from breakfast burritos and vegetarian biscuits and gravy to bi bim bop and the egg foo "feel young" omelette, an eggy homage to the Chinese food classic, awash in hoisin and bean sprouts.
Round the corner from Tweet and stroll down Argyle Street to immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture. The street is a veritable mini Saigon, dotted with a plethora of pho spots and banh mi eateries. An apt entry point to the scene is Tank Noodle, the most popular restaurant in the neighborhood. And for good reason. Pop a squat and slurp your way through any one of Tank's beefy phos, classic Vietnamese noodle soups redolent with anise and herbs. Diners can customize their bowls with bean sprouts, sauces, and chiles as they please from the adjoining condiment bowls. Wash it all down with a tapioca-laced bubble tea.
Another Uptown Vietnamese essential is Ba Le, one of the city's finest destinations for banh mi. This shiny, modern cafe does a masterful job with Vietnamese sandwiches, featuring fresh baguettes stuffed with any number of meats and vegetables, herbs, sprouts, jalapeño, and mayonnaise. Popular picks include the pork-tastic Ba Le special with pâté, ham, headcheese, and pork roll, the sardine-tomato sauce medley, the tofu-based veggie avocado amalgam, and the BBQ pork. Sandwiches are a bargain, so you'll have plenty of coin left over to spend on smoothies, chewy rice-based snacks, and noodle salads.
A baguette's toss from Ba Le is Sun Wah BBQ, one of the most revered Chinese restaurants in Chicago outside of Chinatown. This sprawling eatery is a palace of barbecued Chinese wares, with an expansive menu divvied up between more Americanized Chinese fare and less commonplace items such as fried pig's intestines, salted fish fried rice, and rice congee with minced beef. As the name implies, barbecue is king at Sun Wah. And most notably, it's all about the duck. Diners can order various duck dishes, or go with the group-friendly Beijing duck feast, the restaurant's famous off-menu degustation of varying duck preparations.
Sure, a large part of Uptown's charm is its Vietnamese hub, but there is a lot more to it than pho and banh mi. Once you're all ducked out at Sun Wah, get your chicken fix at Pecking Order. Chef Kristine Subido is a dexterous chicken-whisperer, serving up chicken every which way, be it grilled, fried, roasted, or winged. The restaurant's Filipino undertones make it extra special, from the annatto-calamansi butter basted on the roast chicken to the green beans with tomato-ginger sofrito and the pillowy pandesal bread used to contain fried chicken sandwiches.
If you're looking for a sugar fix or a carb coma, there's no better place than Baker & Nosh. This adorable outpost, nestled along an unassuming stretch of Wilson Avenue, boasts some of the most sublime sweets and breads in the city. Sticky buns, fudgy brownies, and coffee cakes in various flavors cover the comfort food quota for the day, while guests can pick up freshly baked loaves of baguette, ciabatta, rye, and lots more. Some are also used to make sandwiches. Another portion of the storefront is devoted to noshables just begging to be stowed in your home pantries, such as cheeses, jams, charcuterie, and teas.