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Behind the Smoky Backroom, There's Noodles

January 14, 2013

In my humble, yet highly opinionated opinion, the best noodle shop in the Chicagoland area is not in Chicago, nor Illinois. It's behind the Baccarat pit of the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana. I stumbled upon (quite literally) this hidden delight at 3 a.m. one evening, and since have become quite addicted. Here's how it works. The noodle bar was installed as essentially a break room for the nearly all Asian clientele of the Baccarat pit. At all hours, the smoke filled room has an energy of tension and focus, this is serious gambling. Packs of Newports, scorecards tracking the number of Ties between the Bank and the Player, empty green Tsing Tao bottles. Behind this room lies the noodle bar. I seem to be the only person paying for my meal every time I go, as all other patrons have a voucher from the tables. I mime my way through my order, butchering Cantonese as I go, as none of the staff speak English. The translations on the menu do the food little justice, such as "Spicy Beef Tendon Ball Noodle Soup". But good golly, it's so damn good. After my first two photos, I was chided for using photography in the casino, so sorry for the garbage pictures. About 3 minutes after ordering, your food arrives. It's got to be quick, as the majority of the hardcore gambler guests inhale these noodle bowls (that are the size of your head) in about 5 minutes and book back to the tables. The above mentioned dish is excellent, largely due to the broth, which I presume is a stock derived from chicken, tripe and duck bones. Aggressively spicy, with a big, deep punch of umami, and heavily seasoned. My wife goes for the Roasted Duck Noodle Soup, which always gives me feelings of remorse that I haven't ordered that as well. Big pieces of fatty duck thigh, chopped through the bone, cabbage. Epic. I consider the price of this meal to be variable. It ranges from free to $300 a bowl, depending on how much damage I've done to myself at the blackjack tables on the way in.

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