Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.
Green Apple Yogurt (or is it Green Apple Grill and More?) is a perplexing place. Until today, I had no idea it even existed. Green Apple Yogurt is housed in a food court near Clark and Lake's public transit hub, and to be honest, the food court is kind of, well, depressing. It's dark and shadowy inside, it's dingy, and some of the restaurants are shuttered permanently. But I'm an urban spelunker and I'm not afraid of anything. Okay, that's a lie. I'm afraid of a lot of things, especially creepy ceramic baby dolls. Those things are the worst. Oh, and those weird five-toe shoes.
I cautiously climbed up the stairs to the second floor to see if I could find anything worth shoving in my face, and I found Green Apple Yogurt. Even looking at the name above the kiosk, it's hard to tell exactly what Green Apple is actually called. The word "yogurt" isn't in the logo, but it's on the receipt. The logo suggests the place is called "Green Apple Grill & More," which is even more confusing. There isn't really a clear explanation of the sign to the right that says "Gin Ji" either, which advertises "Grill Korean BBQ, Sandwich & More" (sic). Awesome.
To add even more confusion, the menu is separated into two halves: Korean and Vietnamese. There's a lot of traditional Korean items on the menu, but for the sake of this visit, I stuck to the phở. The phở bo vien ($7.45) is a meatball phở, with bite-sized meatballs that are spongy and uniform in texture, making me wonder if they're pre-made and simply heated up, though I could easily be wrong.
The description of the dac biet ($7.45) noodles explains that it contains tendon (I assume it's beef, but it doesn't say), steak, flank, tripe, and brisket. There's no noticeable amount of tendon; I grew up with the gelatinous stuff and I love it, but even after mining through the soup, there's none to be found. All the cuts of beef are tender but with that slightly grainy texture you get when it's boiled. The advertised tripe in the soup comes in extremely small pieces, with that definite earthy funky flavor, but I just wish there was more of it.
The noodles and condiments are served thoughtfully on the side so they don't get soggy, and even though the noodles are one big sticky mass, they unravel in the broth quickly. The broth base for both bowls is the same for each—mild, salty, somewhat beefy, with an umami savoriness. There really isn't much by way of spice, like cloves, star anise, or cinnamon, so dress the soup up with the lime they give you on the side.
The family that runs Green Apple Yogurt is Korean, so I suspect their Korean food is better. I was able to practice my shamefully bad Korean with them for a little bit, which is good. But the last confusing thing about their menu? The yogurt isn't even listed. It's a true mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in phở noodles.
Green Apple Yogurt
About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.