Friends often ask me where they should go for a good, inexpensive meal when they’re shopping on Michigan Avenue, or having lunch on a work day. For a long time, I had very few suggestions. There’s Pizzeria Uno (if you can spare the calories and a few hours of waiting); there’s Fox and Obel, an excellent gourmet market that’s not exactly a quick walk; and then there are a bunch of boring chain restaurants. Whether it’s Panera, Corner Bakery, Chipotle or McDonald’s, none is really worth settling for. I worked just outside the Loop for a year, and I brought my lunch almost every day. Thanks to me, Empanada Boy brings his lunch too. But when Flava Flav and I went to EB’s office to visit him late on a Friday afternoon, we needed a quick, cheap, delicious spot to prevent me from fainting away. The cheap eats gods were smiling on us when we happened upon Silver Spoon.
Silver Spoon is owned by the same family as the previously reviewed Spoon Thai, but its menu has a more Pan-Asian angle. The first three or four pages list Thai options, and the last page is devoted to sushi and other Japanese fare. We stuck to Thai, thinking that would be the specialty of the house. We started with a banana blossom salad (pictured above), which was fresh and vibrant with shrimp, chicken, cilantro, coconut milk and lime. It definitely packed a punch in the spice category, a sign that the Spoon Thai owners haven’t dumbed things down too much for the business lunch crowd. Flava Flav selected the panang curry with tofu. It was thick and peanut-y with long strips of firm tofu. The curry wasn’t the most nuanced version we’d tried, but it was definitely satisfying.
The bitterly cold day inspired Empanada Boy to order soup. He selected the Bamee BBQ Pork with egg noodles in a hot, fragrant broth. The broth warmed us up, and the pork was smoky and delicious. The noodles had a grainy texture that made them a little stiff and not quite as flavorful as I was expecting. Still, this was a distinctive dish, probably not available at your run-of-the-mill Thai joint.
There are a few somewhat adventurous dishes like this one on the menu, but overall, Silver Spoon seems to play it safe by sticking to the dishes Americans recognize. There is no secret Thai menu here (at least as far as I know) as there is at Spoon Thai. And none of the dishes we tasted were quite as authentic or out-there as some of the traditional Thai fare served up in my neighborhood. It makes sense for a downtown establishment to stick to the standards, at least until it drums up a sizable clientele. And even if it never changes, at least it provides people like me with a reliable, non-chain restaurant to turn to when we’re hungry near the Loop.
710 N. Rush St.
Chicago, IL 60611