How Many Asian Restaurants Can Oak Park Support?

Seems like we're pushing the limits of this market segment

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By David Hammond

Asian cuisine leverages fresh vegetables, fish and discrete portions of meat, along with a range of seasonings reflecting the varying cultures of China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. And it usually holds up very well for home delivery.

Many of very much enjoy Asian food, and it shows in our village's superabundance of Asian restaurants.

But, you have to wonder if Oak Park can really support what is now an amazing number of Asian restaurants in our village.

Consider that we have within our village boundaries China Chop Suey, Happiness Chinese, Hutong Fresh Asian Cafe, King and Thai, King Chop Suey, Luo's Peking, Number One Chop Suey, Pacific Café, Penny's Noodle Shop, Seven Ocean, Sagano, Sen Sushi, Sushi House, Szechuan Beijing...and I'm probably forgetting a few. It's even possible a new Asian place or two may have opened between the time I wrote this piece and the time I posted it.

In addition, Forest Park has Saigon Pho, Coral Sushi & Thai, Bua Hana, Yum Thai, Sushi Grill and on and on. In fact, in a single day you could probably walk to close to 20 Asian restaurants in the immediate areas.

Of course, these restaurants represent very different cultures, and there's a huge difference between ingredient-driven, stripped down and elegant Japanese cuisine and, say, more multiple-component, wok-fried Chinese creations. Still, there's a lot of similarity, and if I have Japanese for lunch, for instance, I'm probably not going to opt for Chinese for dinner. It'd be a little like having Czech food and then Polish food in the same day: too much of similar, though not obviously identical, kinds of food.

And there are differences even among similar-looking places. Bob Johnson, co-owner of Hutong, feels "there's room for everyone, and what sets us apart is that everything is freshly made, while you wait, not pre-cooked."

This possible over-saturation of the market for Asian food reminds me of another, analogous situation in the Nineties when it seemed there was a new coffee shop opening in Oak Park every month or so. Many of those places have closed, though it's very possible that most of these new Asian places will do just fine. Demand, clearly, is there.

I can't help feel, though, that'd it be nice to have, oh, I don't know, a little more variety.

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David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 23rd, 2012 10:29 PM

Yum Thai (specifically the "secret" menu) is actually going to be featured next week, Woody. Cool you found it on (a food chatsite some friends and I founded several years ago and that I still co-moderate). Brian, a Korean BBQ would be awesome. I don't believe there is one within miles of Oak Park, and it'd be a different kind of Asian place for the neighborhood. I wish, I wish. Mini, there's not such thing as "too low-rent" for me, though I must admit, I've never been to #1 Chop Suey. Would love to hear about your favorites there.


Posted: January 23rd, 2012 8:28 PM

Probably too low-rent for you, but we love #1 chop suey.

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2012 3:56 PM

We could really use a Korean barbeque restaurant.

Woody Mosgers from Chicago  

Posted: January 23rd, 2012 3:10 PM

There isn't any real good Chinese restaurant in the whole lot. I don't get it in a community such as OP and this close to Chinatown why there isn't better. Discovered the "house menu" at Yum Thai the other day from LTH forum.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 16th, 2011 5:12 AM

Samoan is a seriously under-represented culinary tradition. Everywhere but Samoa.

Jim M.  

Posted: December 15th, 2011 10:19 PM

How about a Samoan restaurant. I'm sure the portions would be huge.

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