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Rebecca Wheeler
Sweet surprise: bean-paste balls on Argyle Street. Photo by Erika Dufour.

Your foodie friends are always bragging about a bowl of mind-blowing pho they had on Argyle Street or a to-die-for curry you can only get on Devon Avenue.

But if you?re like us, then you can never remember which place has the best roasted duck--and if you do manage to find it, how will you translate the 52-page Chinese menu? ??Enter Rebecca Wheeler, an expert on Chicago?s ethnic neighborhoods, whose tasting tours ($95 per person) will teach you how to navigate the restaurants, markets and bakeries for yourself.

On a recent morning, we met Wheeler and four fellow eaters at BaLe café, the first stop on her Argyle Food Tour. The next three hours were a flavor revelation.

We sipped chrysanthemum tea while Wheeler squired us through an Asian market, pointing out the incredible variety of noodles for sale and showing us exactly what to buy to make pad thai at home.

At other stops, we sampled red-bean-paste balls, slurped bowls of noodles and got a mini history lesson in front of the Roots of Argyle mural. Finally, Wheeler handed us neat packets of info about the places we?d discovered, plus recipes, recommended cookbooks and suggestions for places to try on our own.

Anyone need a tip on a good pork bun? Just ask.

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