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Opart, My Heart

Thai chow that gives a big bang for a few bucks.
Monday May 16, 2005.     By Misty Tosh
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

opart thai

Occasionally it takes a while for me to come around. Someone can rant and rave about a restaurant but unless they spell out specifics really clearly (I just need the hard sell), I’m probably sticking to my own random finds. Such is the case with Opart Thai House Restaurant on Western. My in-the-know friend, Geo, had been preaching to me about it for months and until recently, I couldn’t bring myself to actually go there. It sort of became the running joke; anytime we were trying to figure out a place to go eat, “Hey, how ‘bout Opart Thai?” became the status quo comment (to randy laughs all around).

Finally, I broke down and did it; I took his sage advice and moseyed on in. Yeeaaahhh, I’ve been back three times in the past week and not only have I ordered the same thing every single time, my new running comment, when searching for a place to eat has been, “Hey, how ‘bout Opart Thai?” But, this time it’s for real (I cannot seem to get enough).

In a city that has a Thai joint every few feet, there has to be a clincher to make you stand out, and Opart Thai (now that they have a new redesign) has the feel of an authentic Thai house (not just a hole-in-the-wall with haphazardly slung tables and fake flowers everywhere). With a beautiful slate floor, three big, bright rooms with dark wood splashes and a friendly Asian staff, Opart is a welcoming reprieve from the starkly lit, sticky floor offerings that most Thai places provide. Their clincher for me isn’t the clean, welcoming vibe, though; it’s the fresh, delicious food. Not that the food has a stop-me-in-my-tracks type of flavor, but the easy simplicity of the Tofu Pad Thai and the Tofu Fried Rice always makes my heart pound ‘til I get back in there and order up a few helpings.

The Tofu Pad Thai has perfect little nuggets of tofu, lightly fried and scattered over thin, glassy noodles (unlike some Thai kitchens, I feel like the chef’s break up the noodles before cooking them which makes them just the right size for chopstick showmanship). Peppered with tiny slivers of scallions, crunchy bean threads and big patches of eggs (my favorite part, please don’t touch the egg), it’s adorned with sides of freshly grated carrot and cabbage and with a squeeze of fresh lime (and a bit of peanut sauce).

The way to go, though, is to order a side of Tofu Fried Rice with the Pad Thai. Even though it’s loaded with mostly the same ingredients (toss in a bit of onion and some crispy cucumbers), it’s the sort of dish that makes me hurl my chopsticks and pick up a spoon. I cannot shovel it in fast enough, and, laced with a bit of sweet and sour sauce (and more egg, of course), this is Thai at its finest (and cheapest).

The Final Rave: Make sure to share your treasures, though, as the servings are pretty dang big. Thanks, Opart. God love you.

Read it: Duck Walk
Sorry, but marketing is key in getting new customers and once a month, I see these quirky take-out menu’s littering the mailboxes and front doors of Roscoe Village. Cute duck and pretty font? Sold.

Eat it: Penny’s Noodle Shop
Cheap, fast and consistent, Penny’s is the epitome of big city Thai in a box. You know, that daydream you have of yourself, just chilling on a fire escape, chowing down on some fried rice from a paper take-out carton, watching the sun drop. Or is that just me?

Drink it: Amy Thai and Sushi
A BYOB’er with low-cost sushi and mighty fine Thai. What more is needed for those on the go (with very little cash). Plus, the Crab Rangoon rocks (very important).

Get crazy with it: Arun’s
Be prepared to spend thousands.

The Raving Dish lovely. Fatcake Misty Tosh explores back-alley eateries, holes-in-the-wall and seedy ethnic joints as she treks the city in search of the next raving dish. Join her in the quest.


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