On our recent return visit to Chicago (the missus and I came to town to have the Next Restaurant's Bocuse d'Or menu - more on that in the next posting), we were happy to be able to meet up with our foodie friends Phil and Karen for lunch. Since they live in our old neighborhood in the south suburbs and we arrived at O'Hare, I wanted to pick a interesting dining venue somewhere in-between, and I remembered that Katy's Dumpling House in Westmont was one joint I'd been wanting to try for quite a while.
Only about 20 minutes from the airport (I think they got stuck with the longer drive), Katy's Westmont location (665 N. Cass Avenue) is in an unremarkable strip mall that also has Indian and Thai food, a veritable cornucopia of Asian cuisine in the western suburbs. The restaurant itself isn't much bigger than your average home's living room (about 6 tables) and has a strong no-frills vibe, the type of place where they might tell you to use the back alley if you had the temerity to inquire about a public restroom. For ordering, diners are directed to the large photos of various Chinese dishes with small English captions posted above the counter (there's also a small markerboard with daily specials off to the side).
I always feel encouraged when I enter a small ethnic restaurant and find that our little cadre is the only non-native group there; that appeared to be the case when we first sat down. My hopes were validated when the server brought out our initial dish (see photo above), a 6-pack of the house's pan-fried pork buns. Nicely browned on the bottom, the buns were soft and spongy on the inside and contained a dollop of nicely-spiced ground pork.
Our server informed us that the only variety of steamed dumpling left that day was the pork and chive mixture, so we also ordered up 10 of those (see photo above). When paired with the chili dipping sauce at each table, the dumplings were almost (but not quite) the equal of their pan-fried cousins.
At first, Phil and I were a little hesitant to order anything shown on the menu as "spicy" (especially given the heavy French feast the missus and I were going to have the next evening), but curiosity got the better of us and we opted to try a bowl of the famous house dan dan noodles (see photo above). We were instantly happy that we did - the big bowl of perfectly chewy noodles arrived at the table with ground pork and mustard greens, all doused in a fantastic red broth that featured just a subtle amount of the tongue-numbing Szechuan spice (although we suspect that the kitchen dialed it way down for us gaijin). As was the case with Sa Ri One a few weeks prior, I was already looking forward to my return visit to Katy's so I could try out some of their other noodle dishes and dumplings...