After an uninspiring (but free!) morning at the Field Museum (I guess growing up with the Smithsonian in driving distance spoiled me for other museums), my family piled into a cab and my father asked the driver to take us to Chinatown.
The cabbie was taken aback. “I just want to warn you,” he said, “Chinatown here is not like Chinatown in New York. It’s only a couple of blocks.” My father told him that was fine, and asked the driver if he knew any good places to eat there. The cabbie looked at him like he was crazy. “Ok,” said my dad, “we’ll find a place when we get there.”
The driver let us out on an unassuming corner, though there was a chinese restaurant nearby. We looked around, walked a block up, and seemed to be out of Chinatown. “Is this it?” my father wondered aloud. We could see some more promising looking blocks across a pedestrian bridge, so we headed that way. It was a good thing we did.
This was Chinatown proper — lots of restaurants, buildings topped with padoga-style spires, and even an honest-to-goodness Chinatown gate. We asked some police officers if they had any recommendations for a place to eat, and they directed us toward the gate.
Just past the gate was a restaurant called Three Happiness. We figured it was a good omen, since there were three of us, and we went inside. We went up a set of stairs to find a relatively large, wide open space with lots of tables and women wheeling carts around — Sunday dim sum! I was cautiously excited, because although I enjoy dim sum it’s not easy to find vegetarian dim sum. We were seated and my parents asked for menus. “I don’t care for dim sum,” said my father, which seems like a fairly ridiculous thing to say since dim sum is not one particular dish, but I ordered a dish of vegetables with rice noodles just in case I couldn’t get any vegetarian dim sum.
One of the dim sum ladies came by with my favorite kind of dim sum, the wide rice noodle wraps, and I asked her if it was vegetarian. One of the waiters told me that they did not make this dish without meat, even though it was on their dim sum menu, and she confirmed it was full of meat. “I’ll bring some,” she said, and disappeared.
We waited for a long while, and then they brought out the “small” soup my mother had ordered — it was a huge bowl that could feed maybe six people. Then, the dim sum lady brought out a vegetarian version of my dim sum! She had gone to the kitchen and had it made especially for me. The dim sum lady is my hero.
I was so excited that I ate half of the top one before realizing that I hadn’t taken a photo of it. As I started eating, they brought out the food we had ordered from the menu. My father’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw the size of the portions. The vegetables were pretty good, and the rice noodles were extremely fat and thick, which I liked. I did not care much for the soup. My dim sum was pretty good, though some of the vegetables tasted canned.
We couldn’t finish all of the food, so we took some home. When I opened the containers later they had added an order of sauteed chinese broccoli with garlic at no extra charge! Can’t complain about that.
During the afternoon I was wandering the north Loop and I got hungry. I passed by Wow Bao, specializing in “hot asian buns.” They only had one vegetarian bao, though they also had dumplings and noodles. I got two of them, whole wheat with an edamame filling. After paying the manager came over and apologized, because they had to steam a fresh batch of edamame bao. I told him it was no problem, but he was very concerned and offered me a cup of coffee while I waited. It was very nice of him but unnecessary. I waited about seven minutes total for my bao.
The bun itself was surprisingly good, though the filling was unremarkable — it tasted precisely like a filling from some frozen Trader Joe’s concoction, but that’s not such a bad thing. It certainly hit the spot as an afternoon snack.
Three Happiness — 2130 S Wentworth Ave
Wow Bao — 1 West Wacker Blvd
Posted by Howard