My husband and I were in Chicago this past weekend visiting and we were roaming around downtown hungry and looking for a good restaurant. We stumbled about Ben Pao and decided to check it out. I have to admit, upon first glance, it seems like a typical PF Chang's type restaurant: very Americanized Chinese fare with caucasian waiters wearing chi paos (a la the first few scenes of Zach Braff in Garden State). All this did make me initally wary, however, the experience turned out to be great. Our waitress immediately introduced herself and was attentive throughout the night without being overbearing. We ordered a large bowl of hot and sour soup to start (which was good but not amazing) but a few minutes later a gentleman showed up at our table delivering chicken and shrimp fried spring rolls. I started to correct him on our order, but it turned out he was the manager and that the waitress had told him that we were out of towners from Houston. The manager simply wanted to welcome us to the restaurant personally and give us a complimentary appetizer.
My husband and I went to a lot of good restaurants during our stay in Chicago, but this was the only restaurant that made such an effort to make us feel welcome and to extend such hospitality. It wasn't so much the spring rolls (although they were very very good, and we usually don't eat fried food) but the subtle graciousness of the waitress and the manager that we were so impressed with. I highly recommend that people try to this place. It's amazing what an impact great service can have on your dining out experience. I've noticed recently that even at the nice restaurants, the waitstaff often seem nonchalant and flippant, distracted, and not too interested. This was a nice breath of fresh air.
By the way, we had the special beef with shitake mushrooms and the spicy eggplant and tofu-both were which were great.
Pros: Very reasonably priced, Impeccable service
Cons: Great Chinese food, but not truly authentic