Tank Noodle

by Steven Behling


I've often wished that I could pick up Chicago and set it down on top of the hills of Seattle, being careful to preserve the architecture and people of both cities, ultimately ending up with a Pacific Northwest weather pattern with a Windy City + Pike Place Market feel.  Unfortunately, doing so would change the Chicago culture, at least with respect to the way the city comes alive in the summertime.  Seattleites are, of course, glad to see sunny blue skies after months of grey darkness, but temperature-wise, we only have about a 20-30°F difference between our average summer and winter temps.  Contrast that with Chicago's 50°F differential, with temperatures exceeding that shift depending on the day.  I remember the first summer I was in Chicago, a friend from Washington State came to visit, and the weather was 119°F with humidity.  Ugh. UGH.  I also recall going to a Super Bowl XLI party in February 2007 to cheer on "Da Bears" and it was -40°F with the wind chill.  Unacceptable.  I was so appalled, I may have taken a photo of my computer screen with the foreboding forecast, which proved too generous on the actual day.

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Sometimes the Chicago River freezes.  THE RIVER FREEZES.  Unacceptable.

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It was on an unusually crisp, almost wintry autumn morning that I flew back to Chicago from Southern California where I was doing my final year of clinical training.  I was in town to defend my dissertation, and the stress of all that was going on at the time nuked my immune system.  Thanks to the passenger in seat 12A on my LAX to ORD flight, I was the recipient of a burgeoning head cold that would have seriously thrown a damper on my dissertation defense had it reached full capacity.  Luckily, my friends Rachel and Justin knew the perfect remedy, and took me down the street to Tank Noodle for some phở.  I'd never had this Vietnamese soup before, yet its anise-and-cinnamon-infused fragrant beef marrow broth, bounteous rice noodles, thinly-sliced sirloin and onions, with a side plate of add-your-own jalapeños, mung bean sprouts, lime, cilantro, saw-leaf and basil was just the thing I needed to obliterate the cold and send me on my way to a successful defense.  Tank Noodle, you'll always be my first, and nobody can change that.  Nobody.

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After a frigid, cruel winter in Chicago, restaurants open up their sidewalk seating, the palm trees that were "put away" for the winter are re-planted at Oak Street Beach for the summer months, and nobody seems to mind that the heat and humidity cause their nether regions to stick to the insides of their legs. But it doesn't matter what the weather looks like...there is always room for phở.

Tank Noodle is located at 4953-55 N Broadway in Chicago, Illinois.