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Controversial Restaurant Tank Noodle Expands into Old Irving Park

Nearly a year after a federal wage theft investigation became public, the Ly family unveils Tank Kitchen & Bar

A narrow restaurant space with a long bar and open kitchen.
After two years of controversy, Tank Noodle has expanded its Chicago footprint.
Tank Kitchen & Bar

The Ly family, owners of Uptown’s Vietnamese mainstay Tank Noodle who courted high-profile political and labor controversies over the past two years, has opened a long-promised second location in Old Irving Park, just east of Portage Park. Tank Kitchen & Bar debuted this month at 4706 W. Irving Park Road in a space that previously housed millinery institution Hats Plus, which closed in 2018 after more than 30 years.

At 4,000 square feet, Tank Kitchen & Bar maintains many of the offerings that made the Uptown original a success, including pho, congee, and boba tea, but is introducing bar service for the first time, according to Block Club Chicago. Patrons can expect fruity tropical cocktails and local draft beers, as well as new entries like roasted chicken fries, spring rolls with Vietnamese spices, and Lollapalooza Sriracha fries, which were created for the music festival where patrons tend to favor fried foods, co-owner Thien Ly told reporters. This week, Lollapalooza revealed the festival will return form Thursday, July 28 to Sunday, July 31 to Grant Park but didn’t share details on the food vendors. A Lolla rep declined to tell Eater if the Tank team will return to the fest.

Tank, standing at the busy Argyle and Broadway intersection in Uptown, filled a niche for Chicagoans wanting Vietnamese food when it open in 2002. It opened the door for other Vietnamese restaurants to open. In those 20 years, many have, arguably, surpassed Tank.

About fourteen months have passed since members of Tank Noodle’s ownership team posted photos of themselves on a plane to D.C. to attend former President Donald Trump’s January 6 rally that would turn into an insurrection with rioters breaching the U.S. Capitol. Over the following days, the images quickly began to circulate on social media and the restaurant became the target of a whirlwind of controversy as Ly family members publicly condemned and denied participation in the violence that followed the pro-Trump event.

By March 2021, however, Tank Noodle was back in the news as federal authorities forced ownership to pay nearly $700,000 in back wages owed to 60 workers. A wage theft investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found that Tank Noodle failed to pay some workers any direct wages, compensating them only with tips. Those tips were also garnished by management, who siphoned off a share of the tip pool for themselves, according to the Labor Department. Months later, the Tribune revealed multiple failures by city and state officials to address the restaurant’s labor practices and enforce minimum wage laws.

For some in Chicago’s Asian restaurant community, local officials’s negligence underscored their feeling of invisibility. “It’s a trickle-down effect from being a model minority,” chef Palita Sriratana of Thai pop-up Pink Salt told Eater at the time. “When there is this picture of Asian Americans that we do well and have higher household incomes than other minorities, the ones that are struggling aren’t seen, aren’t heard.”

The new restaurant also represents a new chapter for the family as they seek to move forward from past incidents. All staff members are now paid “correctly,” co-owner Gwen Ly told Block Club. The Lys have not yet responded to Eater’s request for more information.

Block Club sought to address the myth of cancel culture with the local chamber. Michael DiMeo, president of the Six Corners Chamber of Commerce, told them that he wants to leave the past in the past and notes “they have certainly invested in the neighborhood.”

Tank Kitchen & Bar, 4706 W. Irving Park Road, Open 11 a.m. to 9 pm. Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Tank Noodle

4953 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 878-2253 Visit Website

Tank Kitchen & Bar

4706 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL 60641 708-677-0252 Visit Website

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