It’s the age-old college dilemma: should you order a cheap, delicious yet fattening pizza or an expensive, bland yet healthy salad? Despite the wide range of quality eateries in Evanston, it can be difficult to appease your taste buds, your well-being and your wallet all at once.
But what if I told you it actually was possible?
That’s where Viet Nom Nom, a healthy catering and quick-service concept rooted in Evanston and offering delicious Vietnamese cuisine, comes in.
“As a former NU student myself,” said co-owner and 2015 Kellogg School of Management graduate Noah Bleicher, “I know that you can only have so much of the standard sandwich, pizza and stir-fry rotation before you’re really craving something different…something better.”
With this in mind, during his first week of business school, Bleicher came up with the idea for a healthy fast-food concept, and quickly “grew this seed of an idea into a full-fledged business” with the help of co-founder Alan Moy, who started working with Bleicher in late 2015.
After vetting the concept and all of its different aspects with friends, classmates and professors, Bleicher was finally ready to get Viet Nom Nom up and running.
So why Vietnamese food?
“Vietnamese was a slam dunk,” Bleicher said. “We believe Vietnamese cuisine provides the best opportunity to combine fresh, healthy ingredients with complex and delicious flavors.”
That means homemade sauces and marinades, bahn mi sandwiches and summer rolls stuffed with raw veggies and herbs, and proteins that are grilled or baked, never fried.
But unprocessed doesn’t have to mean unseasoned. Flavor at Viet Nom Nom doesn’t come from artificial, unhealthy ingredients. Instead, it comes from classic Vietnamese-inspired herbs, seasonings and sauces.
“When eating healthy these days, we find that folks all too often have to sacrifice flavor,” Bleicher said. “We have developed our menu to incorporate food that is both healthy and full of rich flavors.”
I witnessed this first-hand when I got to try their signature summer rolls and vermicelli rice noodle salad. Both meals were presented beautifully on a bed of greens, complete with bright colors and lots of different textures.
Vietnamese Summer Rolls
Forget deep-fried and fattening spring rolls. Who needs them when you can enjoy Viet Nom Nom’s summer rolls, wrapped in chewy rice paper and filled with marinated lemongrass chicken (or pork, or tofu), rice noodles, mint and cilantro, lettuce, carrots, cucumber and peppers?
The best part of these rolls was the satisfying crunch they made when I bit into them – oh, and the delicious savory and sweet “rock star peanut sauce” on the side.
Vietnamese Vermicelli Rice Noodle Salad
Tangy. Spicy. Sweet. With many of the same ingredients as the summer rolls, the rice noodle salad was topped with a Vietnamese vinaigrette that brought all of the flavors together. Because of the many unique textures (like the crunchiness of the bean sprouts and raw veggies and the chewiness of the glass noodles), each bite of the salad was a delicious surprise.
So how can NU students taste these mouth-watering, Vietnamese-inspired eats?
Although Bleicher and Moy may not yet have a store-front location, there are still many ways in which you can “get your Nom Nom on,” Bleicher said. Viet Nom Nom delivers catering orders all around the Evanston community (including to Greek chapters on campus), and they sell their portable meals in the grab and go section of Kafé Kellogg. In addition, they run a pop-up restaurant in Kellogg’s Jacobs Center every Monday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
If these options still don’t satisfy your Viet Nom Nom cravings, don’t despair.
“We are looking to launch two storefronts in 2016,” Bleicher said. “The first one will be in Evanston and the second will follow soon after in downtown Chicago (the Loop). Our goal is to have full catering and storefront operations up and running just ahead of the next school year.”
Viet Nom Nom’s stellar combo of quickly-prepared meals and healthy yet flavorful Vietnamese cuisine is a welcome addition to NU’s wide variety of eateries on campus and beyond.