Phodega is ‘un-pho-gettable’

by Ayumi Davis / News Editor

The interior of the restaurant. Photo by Ayumi Davis.

Are you looking for something to warm you up in the cold winter of Chicago? Phodega’s got you covered.

The restaurant opened in November 2019 by co-founders Nate Hoops and Anthony Ngo and has been met with warm responses ever since its inception. Ngo and Hoops pulled inspiration from their own lives for the main dishes: pho and Hainanese chicken rice. Ngo is from a Vietnamese family and has made pho throughout his lifetime. Hoops grew up eating the famous chicken dish — a perk of having a Singaporean mother. Located in Wicker Park, Phodega is serving up some kickin’ food.

Customers are greeted with a simple illuminated sign spelling out the name of the restaurant. The interior is small and cozy, hosting a few paintings on its walls, and eager diners are sat at stylish wooden tables and benches. On the right wall lies shelves filled with Asian goodies and basic supplies, from Thai potato chips to sriracha to cleaning solution. The workers bumped easy hip-hop over the speakers as they worked in a tiny kitchen, steam and mouth-watering aromas rising from the pots and pans.

Fried chicken skins served with “Hainan style hot sauce.” Photo by Ayumi Davis.

There weren’t many dishes on the menu, but it still took me a minute to ponder over what I wanted to eat. Eventually, I decided on the beef pho and fried chicken skins. I was tempted to buy a drink: ramune — yogurt drinks — Calpi and all of the other staple Asian drinks that brought me back to fond childhood memories. But I opted for water instead, leaving room in my stomach for the food I had just ordered.

The chicken skins came first, and they were everything I could have imagined. Thin, crispy and perfectly salted for a nice savory taste, the skins slightly reminded me of chicharrón. With the dish came a side of spicy, sweet sauce that featured overtones of peppery sriracha. Together, they came together to create an awesome umami flavor.

Beef pho with toppings. Photo by Ayumi Davis.

Soon after the chicken skins, my pho arrived at the table in a huge steaming bowl. Garnishing the noodles and broth were cilantro, green onions, bean sprouts, jalapeños, lime, beef meatballs and beef strips. I took my spoon and tried the broth first, as a strong broth truly makes any good noodle dish. It was thin, yet so full of a subtle, meaty flavor that warmed my body as it traveled down to my stomach. I added the limes for a light, tart note to the broth. The beef was tender and full of flavor. The vegetables added bright spots of crunchy texture to balance the meatiness of the dish. 

To put it simply, the food at Phodega was nothing short of impressive.

On a cold, snowy day in Chicago — or anywhere else in the world — there is nothing better than a delicious heaping bowl of noodles, and Phodega does it absolutely right. With its generous servings, hip ambiance and great food, it’s sure to bring people in droves.

10 out of 10 torches.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment


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