Thursday, July 15, 2010

This Week in Food & Drink: Don't Sell the Burbs Short

Posted By on 07.15.10 at 11:59 AM

bak kut teh at Asian Noodle House in Hoffman Estates
  • Rob Lopata
  • bak kut teh at Asian Noodle House in Hoffman Estates

This week my pal Rob Lopata looked at a neglected but highly significant aspect of the regional chow scene: the gold mine of great Chinese restaurants in the western suburbs. The idea that suburbs or outlying areas of major metropolitan cities can have richer, more rewarding ethnic dining scenes than their urban nuclei still takes many jaded urbanites by surprise. But just look at places like the San Gabriel Valley outside LA, Flushing in Queens, or Richmond, B.C., south of Vancouver, and you know that there are vast territories of superior eats unknown to most but the immigrant populations they cater to.

bamboo slat at Mapo autographed by Chinese actor Ying Da
  • Peter Engler
  • bamboo slat at Mapo autographed by Chinese actor Ying Da

In the Chicago area we don't have teeming ethnic exurbs such as these, but there are certainly substantial enclaves, like the burbs Rob writes about, which have a higher Chinese population than the city's. "This phenomenon has basically been overlooked by the urban food community at large," he says, "shortchanging them of some of the greatest ethnic dining experiences to be had."

Chinese vegetable van outside Mapo
  • Rob Lopata
  • Chinese vegetable van outside Mapo

If you can't be convinced, in the listings there are ten picks for dining in Chinatown.

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