OLD IRVING PARK — A family-run Vietnamese restaurant has joined Six Corners, bring pho, spring rolls and more to the Northwest Side.
The owners behind Uptown’s Tank Noodle debuted their second location earlier this month at 4706-4710 W. Irving Park Road, taking over a vacant storefront and the former Hats Plus space, which closed in 2018.
The Ly family, which owns Tank Noodle, came under fire last year for federal labor violations and illegal employment practices. The business was forced to pay back almost $700,000 in back wages to employees it didn’t adequately compensate and pay back a $150,000 business interruption grant it received from the state.
The restaurant was also criticized after some of its owners attended the Jan. 6 Donald Trump rally that ended in the storming of the U.S. Capitol. Management later condemned the violence and said they did not take part in the breach.
Gwen Ly, a co-owner and manager, said the business is moving on and they are paying employees fairly.
“We have gone in the right direction and are paying everyone correctly and what they should be paid now,” Ly said.
Co-owner Thien Ly said the Six Corners location — called Tank Kitchen & Bar — was a long time coming. His mother connected with the property owner for the 4710 W. Irving Park Road spot in 2015; but, when neighboring Hats Plus announced its closing, she decided to trust her gut and take over both spaces, he said. The restaurant is about 4,000 square feet, he said.
“My mom saw it and believed in it,” Thien Ly said. “It’s amazing, all the developments happening.”
The family wanted a chance to expand their business in a new community and bring authentic Vietnamese dishes to the Northwest Side. The second location was slated to open in the summer 2020, but the pandemic and city permitting hurdles delayed the opening, Thien Ly said. Tank Kitchen’s business license was approved in October, records show.
The new location is an expansion from the Uptown restaurant. It features a full bar with tropical cocktails, local beers on tap, a selection of milk teas and fresh juices. Tank staples like pho, noodle soups, catfish claypot dishes, wok dishes and popular appetizers like Lollapalooza Sriracha fries are also on the menu.
Thien Ly said the fries were inspired by the restaurant’s Lollapalooza events, where people wanted quick, fried snacks. The owners also offered roasted chicken fries and spring rolls with Vietnamese spices, which became quick hits and were added to the Six Corners menu.
“My whole vision for this is to expand our culture,” he said. “We already have enough American food. We are ready for ethnic food, and Chicago is a melting pot. We have diversity everywhere, and that’s the beautiful part about us.”
Another difference from the Uptown location is the new restaurant has an open kitchen all diners can see. The owners said the modern design was intentional to represent the business growth while creating a more communal environment.
Many of the restaurant’s employees have been with the family for more than 20 years, working in the small and hot Uptown kitchen, Thien Ly said. He wanted to give them more space, let them see people eating their food and let customers see the cooking process.
“When I’m in a kitchen and they’re making sautés and flames are coming off … the food is looking beautiful,” he said. “Maybe they can take a look and see we’re really cooking this food. It’s not pre-made somewhere and we’re just heating it up. We’re sautéing from scratch.”
Michael DiMeo, president of the Six Corners Chamber of Commerce, said Tank Kitchen & Bar will add to the diversity of the neighborhood. The Ly family has worked hard to be part of the community and deserves a second chance, he said.
“What happened in the past, we are going to leave it in the past, and it wasn’t at this location,” DiMeo said. “They have certainly invested in the neighborhood. It’s great to have that variety. I think the hope is when we see the big construction come in, that we see the small boutique shops [like Tank], too.”
Thien Ly said he looks forward to bringing his cuisine to residents, especially amid developments at Six Corners.
Ly’s parents immigrated to the United States in the early ’80s and saved money to open the family’s first Vietnamese restaurant in the ’90s. Growing up in the industry, he knew he wanted to help manage the business to keep his parents’ legacy going.
“In college, this is all I wanted to do,” he said. “That’s the Asian in us — we do the hustle.”
The Uptown restaurant, which opened its first location on Argyle Street in 2002 before expanding to its spot on Broadway, was voted the city’s best Vietnamese restaurant by the Chicago Reader in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
“We are 100 percent authentic and legit. … I think we have the best pho in Chicago,” Ly said. “We cook it right and don’t skip out on the stock. “We have our own herb recipe that my dad came up with.”
Tank Kitchen & Bar is open 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Thursday-Tuesday and closed on Wednesdays.
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