Summertime is officially here, and, like many, I find myself trying to eat fresher foods to look and feel my best. However, because I'm staying at my university to do research, I'm stuck eating dining hall food, which is notorious for being not the most nutritionally sound. Luckily, Viet Nom Nom has opened just in time.

Viet Nom Nom is "not Vietnamese fusion cuisine; it is Vietnamese inspired," as Alan, one of the co-owners, explained to me. The mission of the restaurant is to maintain the integrity of Vietnamese food while making it accessible to the masses. What does this mean, exactly?

Vegan Substitutions

I am not a coffee person. I avoid it because of health reasons (have you seen how much sugar is in Starbucks concoctions?!) but also because I genuinely don't like the taste. However, Viet Nom Nom's Vietnamese iced coffee might just convert me. Vietnamese iced coffee is known for its deep, rich coffee flavor cut through by sweetened condensed milk. Viet Nom Nom utilizes coconut condensed milk which 1.) has 40% less sugar, 2.) vegan, and 3.) in my opinion, more complementary to the coffee.

Traditional Flavors with a Twist

Speaking of coconuts, Viet Nom Nom keeps its menu consistent and authentic by offering products and dishes that are traditionally associated with Vietnamese cuisine. Coconut water is popular among Southeast Asian countries, and to introduce this budding trend to Evanston residents, Viet Nom Nom has partnered with Coco Libre (an organic, sparkling coconut water company usually only found in Whole Foods). This drink was chosen specifically because its clean, crisp flavors perfectly complements Viet Nom Nom's all-natural menu.

Fresh Ingredients

Viet Nom Nom is dedicated to creating dishes with ingredients that you can pronounce (unless, of course, it's in native Vietnamese). All the ingredients for every item on the menu is unprocessed. For example, the #1 seller, summer rolls, are only made of rice paper, raw vegetables, and your grilled or baked protein (chicken, tofu, or the recommended garlic shrimp). As an added bonus, all the sauces that you can get with your meals (I particularly loved the peanut and cilantro aioli with this meal) are house-made, so you know it's not full of MSG or any of that nasty stuff.

Simple yet Satisfying Meals

Repeat after me: carbs are not bad. Restriction is never the answer, and that's why I loved Viet Nom Nom. Alan and his co-founder, Noah, set out to provide filling meals that don't make people feel sluggish or gross. Portion sizes are reasonable, and every meal has a good balance of healthy carbs, protein, and fats. Take the spicy peanut pasta; there are noodles, peanuts, veggies, and protein in the dish. It'll definitely hold you over until your next meal and give you the energy you need to go about your duties. Plus, it's super tasty, with just the right amount of heat to balance the rich peanut sauce. 

Sweet Treats

And, of course, Viet Nom Nom couldn't forget about everyone's favorite meal: dessert. Finish off your meal or accompany your coffee with a freshly baked almond cookie, the Vietnamese version of a biscotti. Crispy on the outside yet chewy in the middle, they're so good you might have to buy another for the road.

If you're in Evanston for the summer, Viet Nom Nom is the place to go. With a bright and modern environment, enthusiastic staff, a great philosophy, and even greater food, you have to give Viet Nom Nom a try. Or, at least, put it on your list to eat at when you're back for fall quarter.