Hidden in plain sight on an increasingly commercial block of W 18th in what used to be a residential and primarily Mexican neighborhood is a trendy Vietnamese cafe, Cà Phê Dá. A cafe by day and trendy casual dinner and drinks hang out spot by night, Cà Phê Dá defies expectations in many ways. It is an extension of the neighboring HaiSous, a sit-down restaurant with a more sophisticated Vietnamese dining experience, which for a while was a conspicuous representation of the rapid gentrification of the neighborhood among other upscale restaurants that popped up. Chef Thai Dang created Cà Phê Dá to be more of a community space where people can gather throughout the day, and in turn be more connected to the neighborhood it calls home.
The menu consists of primarily humble Vietnamese street food, with a selection of banh mi’s as well as noodle and rice dishes. The coffee drinks (using beans from a family roaster in Saigon) and sweets are decidedly traditional, with the entire menu leading with Vietnamese names, accompanied by English descriptions, something that is remarkable in the Chicago food scene. Cà Phê Dá is a unique addition not only to the neighborhood but also to the city, and well worth a detour to Pilsen for a little something different.
|Hours||COVID hours – 4-8pm Thursday – Sunday, closed Monday – Wednesday|
|Price||$-$$ – everything is $10 or less, coffee is about on par with typical third wave coffee shops|
|Aesthetic||artfully natural (think: purposely unfinished surfaces, natural textures), modern, bright, inviting|
Go here for: coffee and lunch or a cocktail and dinner
Order this: ca phe trung (egg custard coffee) – a Hanoi specialty that is a rare find in Chicago, chicken wings (their pride and joy)
Amount of time to spend: definitely more of a leisurely casual meal than a coffee-to-go kind of place
When to come: daytime for more of a peaceful environment, evening for more of a social atmosphere
Getting here: it’s not super convenient by subway, as it’s almost a mile from the 18th Street station (pink line). Better to go by bus (18 drops you off right at the corner) or by car (residential streets offer decent parking options)
Other things to note:
Last visited: August 2019
Last updated: November 2020