Barberry Thai Restaurant
One of the regrets I developed after fourteen years of living in Chicago is that I never took advantage of being a tourist in the city. The assumption was that since I had planned to make Chicago my permanent home, I would get around to enjoying the attractions over the remainder of my lifetime here. So, I missed out on going to the museums. I skipped going to the aquarium. I passed on going to the galleries. I went to a few theatre shows that came through, but paid no never-mind to the long list of great shows that have come to play here. Earlier this summer I made a pact that I would indulge myself in the culture and entertainment of the fantastic city of Chicago. I will not say that I have missed out on going to many belly-stuffing restaurants, though, because that would be a grand lie. That item is a constant on my agenda.
With the weather being pleasant this weekend, I decided to do something slightly different. My dinner gatherings have primarily included one friend who has been a constant in the restaurant jaunts. There have also been others who have tagged along. But on this day, while riding my bicycle to do some photography-on-foot, I stopped in one of my favourite Thai restaurants. Located at 2819 N. Southport Avenue and owned by one of my greatest friends, I locked up my bike outside, slung my book bag over my shoulder, and walked in greeting everyone with “sawadeed.” I am a regular customer and to the point where greetings, ordering, and salutations are done in Thai.
Because I was functioning solo, I recognized that there was no way I could eat in the quantity that is customary with the meals I order with my constant dining friend and others. I thought about any one of the curry dishes that I love to life — red curry, green curry, yellow curry, pineapple curry, or panang, all served up with ghai (translation: chicken) or tofu. I also smiled at the possible notion of some bamee noodles or drunken noodles. Even a nice, big bowl of spicy kow soi koong — shrimp curried coconut soup with crispy noodles — passed my thoughts. What I needed was a dish that I could manage, keeping in mind that I had ridden my bicycle there. Eureka! I settled on a round of appetizers instead.
Since I have made a modification to my diet to remove any pork — including pepperoni pizza — and beef, which means I’ll have pesto with my spaghetti instead of meat sauce, I picked all items that would pander to my new tasting want. I ordered shrimp shumai, pot stickers, baby egg rolls, crab rangoon, Bangkok chicken strips, and seasoned chicken wings. Perfect.
The owner, Wongchana Pinkaew, came to my table and we got into our usual conversations regarding race relations, personal responsibility, economics, world travel, and politics. Nothing like a little bantering between two Socialists with Democratic leanings.
After the appetizers had settled, I then had a customary Thai coconut custard to cap off the tasty repast. For those who have had flan, Thai coconut custard may be familiar. Served up warm with a very light syrup drizzle, it will hit the spot any time, any season, anywhere. Wong had prepared a Thai custard for me several years ago and it has become a required staple in my Thai meals. Eaten with spiced tea or jasmine tea for a companion, it is a perfect way to finalize an outstanding dining experience.
The service has always been a winner for me whenever I have gone to Barberry. It helps being great friends with the owner and the others who work there. The food is always fresh and if you linger around downstairs, you will get to see that food is prepared linearly and the chefs are from Thailand. No heating food in the oven. No microwaving. No fast food. Chicago has a surplus of McDonald’s restaurants, Starbucks coffee shops, Dunkin Donuts, Subways, and Thai restaurants. McDonald’s upsets my stomach. I have British leanings, so I prefer tea to coffee. Dunkin Donuts? No, I’ll take Old Fashion Donuts in the Wild Hundreds. Subway? Panera is a better choice. But when it comes to Thai, I will gladly got the few miles from where I live to get my food enjoyment at Barberry Thai Restaurant. Kab koon ka.