When The Dad and I lived in California, which was also before we had children, we used to go out to lunch together during the work week at a Pho noodle house. The Dad would call me and simply say “Pho!” when I answered the phone. It is not quite the same thing, but now we say “Noodles!” in the same manner.
Taking the train down to Bucktown/Wicker Park to eat noodles at Penny’s Noodles is one of my favorite outings in Chicago. We walk the 4-5 blocks to the train station, hop on the Blue Line and disembark at the Damen station. Penny’s is located just south of the tracks. Larger than the Wrigleyville original, Penny’s in Wicker Park is a bit more kid-friendly (and also has a liquor license, unlike the original). Every time we go, a quick glance around the dining room reveals a cross section of Chicago’s population: gay men, older teenagers with black spiky hair and rings in their facial cartilage, families with small children, hipster couples, and couples who just qualify for an AARP discount.
The waitstaff always creates kid-friendly chopsticks out of the disposable chopsticks and a rubber band, not that The Boy or The Girl ever use them for anything other than playthings. The Dad and I get our regular dishes while The Girl and The Boy split an order of plain vermicelli rice noodles and cold broccoli with a ginger-mustard sauce. Then we pay the ~$25 (with tip) bill and head back on the train. Sometimes we head over on North Avenue for an ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, but we usually just get back on the train and head home with bellies full of noodles, vegetables and meat.
It’s a win-win for all involved. The Dad and I get to eat yummy noodles. I don’t have to cook. The Girl and The Boy get to ride the train. The Baby gets some snuggle time in the sling. And no one has to drive.