Chinese Delivery on the North Side

July 21 2005 - 8:00 AM

So, there’re Chinese restaurants of all types in Chicago — your upscale variety, your greasy spoon variety, those that specialize in Szechwan, those that focus on Cantonese delights — whatever you want, its out there. We have Chinatown on the South Side and seemingly every neighborhood boasts a list of other favorite locations. On the near North Side, options for Chinese delivery are similarly plentiful. The following highlights some of my favorites for take-out/delivery.

Chen’s Chinese & Sushi  (3506 N. Clark St.)

Chen’s has been around for a long time and is always good for
consistent, fresh Chinese food.  The portions are large and they offer
low fat options on a number of dishes. Sometimes, certain items can be
a little too saucy, but that has not stopped me from being a customer
for nearly seven years.

On the appetizer front, pan-fried beef dumplings and their special
lobster dumplings stand out. All of the soups show a level of care not
always found at restaurants. As far as entrees go, there are few I
would not recommend. The vegetables are always quite fresh and their Mu
Shu Shrimp is great. Their standards like General’s or Sesame are
offered in Chicken, Beef, Shrimp or All Three Ingredient options and
both are tasty. The Sesame is extra sweet and the General’s can come
extra spicy, as it should.

For both the freshness of ingredients and consistent quality of the
food, Chen’s is always a good take-out/ delivery option. The sushi I’d
stay away from though. The maki tend to be sloppily put together and
there’s too many other good sushi options in the neighborhood to waste
your time here.

pingpong (3322 N Broadway)

This restaurant is somewhat unique in that they are clearly a
Chinese restaurant, but they dabble in some more creative fare and
offer a twist on a number of traditional dishes. However, because of
the neighborhood, its not to be confused with upscale like some of the
newer popular Chinese-themed restaurants downtown.

I personally like a lot of the appetizers here — they call them
‘First Bites’. The Lettuce Cups are very spicy and filled with ginger,
lime and peanuts — different, but good. They offer a nice Summer Roll
like you’d find at a Thai restaurant. The Potstickers are on par with
most too. Other specialties include their calamari which is lightly
fried and done Szechwan style. The soups here are also a plus — my
personal favorite is the Ginger Wonton, but all of them are good.

The dishes or the MAIN EVENTS also offer a variety of flavors —
some familiar and some not. Many are offered as a style and then you
choose chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu. I personally like the Spicy which
has a sweet, hoisin aftertaste and the Mango. Other staples like
Cashew, Mongolian, Sesame and General’s are carefully prepared and if
you want it spicy, they do a good job of raising the heat. The one
drawback here might be the size of the dishes — compared to many of
the other restaurants around, they do not give you quite the same
amount of food.

pingpong is a more modern approach to the usual Chinese restaurant.
Whether its offering brown rice instead of plain, old white or
inserting flavors from other asian cooking styles, its a nice change of
pace from some of its competitors. Delivery tends to be pretty quick
too!

Yen’s (2856 N. Clark)

Yen’s is near the bustling intersection of Clark and Diversey and
guarantees the quality of its food. On this front, I believe. They
offer a huge menu filled with tradition Hunan, Szechwan, Peking and
other influences. They use fresh, fresh ingredients and high quality
meats and seafood. While I rotate my Chinese orders depending upon what
I’m in the mood for, Yen’s has through the years always provided a good
meal, at a fair price and lots of flavor.

Appetizers at Yen’s include what I consider the basics — Egg Rolls,
Pot Stickers, Shrimp Toast, Cold Sesame Noodles, etc. I’ve had them all
and think all qualify as being pretty good. The Egg Rolls are
especially tasty, but I prefer the Steamed Dumplings to the Pot
Stickers. Soups too are well done and filled with high quality
ingredients. Even better, almost all of them are offered in sizes for
one or two. The 3 Delicacies Soup and the Sizzing Rice Soup both use a
light broth and have larger scallops, shrimp and chicken throughout.

On the dish front, most are offered in large or small portions. The
vegetables are crisp and fresh, the chicken is in most cases white meat
and there are many, many different preparations to choose from. I like
the Orange Shrimp (which does not come in small variety) — its lightly
breaded, pan fried with a sweet, yet spicy sauce. You get more than 15
large shrimp, tossed with broccoli and its great. There’s a good mix of
spicy dishes if that’s what you’re into, but old favorites like
Mongolian Beef, Chicken with Cashews, and noodles dishes like Lo Mein
are also very good.

Yen’s is an ideal take-out/delivery Chinese restaurant. If you want
grease, they have grease. If you want high quality seafood, they have
that too. Their flavors are authentic and its clear they hold their
food to their quality guarantee. Its the type of restaurant where you
can order off the menu a favorite Chinese dish and be confident they
will come through. Its not fancy, its just good.

Y2K Cafe  (714 W. Diversey)

Y2K Cafe is not just a technology term and future Jeopardy! question
for 2029, but Chinese and Sushi restaurant that I’ve come to really
like. Here too, I do not order the sushi, but always look forward to
some of the appetizers, the soups, select dishes and the Smoothies
(more on that later).

The appetizers at Y2K are some of my favorites — they offer more
than 20 of them and often I’ll just order a few appetizers and soup
(skipping the dishes). They make Scallion pancakes in all varieties
that large and pretty good. I like their Spring Rolls which are not
fried, but more like a Vietnamese Summer Roll. They have regular Egg
Rolls too, both with meat and vegetarian style. The Potstickers are
some of my favorite — pan-fried or steamed — very good. The Honey
Glazed Wings and Chicken Noodles Salad are always welcome additions to
any order I place too — again, it all depends upon what you’re in the
mood for. Soups — the basics here are good and surprisingly
inexpensive. I am a big fan, however, of the Big Bowl Noodle soups that
come with your choice of egg noodle, wide rice noodle or rice
vermicelli paired with your choice of meat, vegetable or even shrimp
(though you have to ask). They area  meal all on their own, especially
good in the winter.  If you make it to the dishes, you’ll find there’s
lots of choices and specials from the Chef’s Kitchen. Fruit plays a
unique role on the menu — you can order chicken dishes with
Strawberries or Kiwi or even Lychees. I like the Beef with Orange Peel,
the Noodle dishes, the Moo Shu Wraps and the Soft Shell Crab when they
have it. Many of the other dishes I have never tried because  they are
just filled with too many vegetables, not my thing.

OK, now the Smoothies. Seriously, the thing that typically prompts
me to order from Y2K Cafe over some of the other options in the
neighborhood are the fresh fruit smoothies they offer. I order
Cantaloupe 98% of the time and its just so good. Sure, there’s Jamba
Juice up the street and any number of other juice bars, drinks, etc.,
but they use lots of fresh fruit and just the right amount of ice to
make a great drink. The Banana is good, the Watermelon is good —
whatever fruit you like, they probably have it and its a great
accompaniment to the spices of the food.

Y2K is  is yet another great take-out/delivery option on the near
North Side of Chicago. If you are looking for a lighter meal, just some
appetizers and soup — its great. Many of the dishes are solid too, but
the style is more Cantonese-influence so there is a heavy use of
vegetables. The Smoothies are a secret weapon here and I encourage
everyone to try the Cantaloupe.

Summary

There are many, many Chinese restaurants on the near North Side of
Chicago where you can order a good meal. Some have great soup, some
have great appetizers and some should just be flat-out avoided
(Wouldn’t that be a fun post?). People should have a favorite or two,
but venture out and try more. The four detailed above are just four.
There’s many others I’ve been to that are also good, and consistent.
Consistency is key. Go out and enjoy!

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