When the French controlled Vietnam, baguettes crossed cultures, and one of the finest results of this is the banh mi sandwich. They’re plentiful in this area, but this bakery creates most of the bread restaurants use, so go try the source, a cute and colorful counter-service spot with stimulation galore. Jump in line for the barbecue pork or the Ba Le special, which piles housemade pâté, headcheese and pork onto a baguette with tangy carrot and daikon slivers, cilantro and jalapeño. Grab a coconut custard (served in an actual coconut!) for an interesting ending.
When the craving for Vietnamese food—banh mi stuffed with pork and pickled vegetables, steaming bowls of beef pho, fried banh xeo—strikes, all you need to do is hop on the Red Line to Argyle. The street is teeming with restaurants of all sizes, offering some of the best Vietnamese food around. But there are a couple gems off that strip: French-Vietnamese Pasteur, an elegant space known for banh xeo, and Saigon Sisters, which puts creative spins on banh mi, pho and other dishes. Whatever dish you're in the mood for, there's a Vietnamese restaurant that's serving it.
RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best Chicago restaurants