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Phodega Is Exactly What It Sounds Like

Inside the best corner store ever.

Nathan Hoops and Anthony Ngo   Photo: Jeff Marini

It was a cold, windy day on the cold, windy corner of North and Ashland when I ducked into Phodega, which is exactly what the name promises: part pho shop and part bodega, an oasis of hot soup and cool snacks.

I live nearby, on the pho-starved West Side, and these exemplary bowls save me a drive to Argyle. Both the hearty, cinnamon-forward pho bo (with beef brisket, meatballs, and rib eye) and the gingery pho ga (with shreds of chicken) feature deep, concentrated broths and thick, springy rice noodles — a step up from more workmanlike versions around town.

On a repeat visit, I began to appreciate the sly humor of owners Nathan Hoops and Anthony Ngo. The letter-board menu reads like a list of Asian hangover cures. You can start with a pizza puff or crisp chicken skins with chile-garlic sauce, then move on to pho or chicken rice with a sidecar of broth and crunchy fried thigh. The walls are lined with necessities like Spam, Q-tips, and packs of instant ramen (you know, necessities). Like at any good bodega, staff will even cook the ramen for you if you’re too rushed — or lazy — to do it yourself.

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