Penny Chiamopolous, a Chicagoan of Thai origin, opened her noodle shop in the early '90s. At the time, she was one of the city's only pan-Asian noodle houses. Penny's pioneering menu offered everything from soup to nuts or, to be more accurate, Vietnamese spring rolls and crab rangoon to Thai iced coffee and all the rice dishes in between. But to this day, noodles are the name of the game at Penny's tasty shop.
The Damen restaurant is Penny's third and largest location. The decor is nothing remarkable, but the place is clean and spacious. Besides, the eclectic bunch of noodle-cravers and bookworms-on-a-budget has things other than interior design on the brain. And speaking of noodles: Penny has noodles in a bowl, stir fried noodles and noodles in soup. There are thin rice vermicelli noodles, egg noodles and wide rice noodles. There are spicy basil noodles, sesame beef noodles and even Thai ravioli noodles. And if you're eating at Penny's, your wallet will thank you for using your noodle. The portions certainly outweigh the prices; entrees run about $5 on average and top out around $8.
Prices like these are definitely worth the wait, but don't say we didn't warn you: This place can get pretty crowded on weekends. It seems that pinching Penny's is a popular pastime.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg