NORRIDGE, Ill. (WLS) -- Most of the city's Vietnamese restaurants are concentrated around Uptown, with a few exceptions.
One of those would be in north west suburban Norridge, near the Harlem Irving Plaza Mall. That's where I found myself recently, enjoying a lot more than just bowls of pho.
EXTRA COURSE: Tropical smoothies from Viet Taste
Like so many mom-and-pop immigrant kitchens, the one at Viet Taste - housed in a non-descript strip mall in the shadow of the larger Harlem Irving Plaza Mall - is doing things the right way: from scratch.
"We make new things every day. It comes with the mayo, pate especially and the daikon radish and carrot," said Linda Mac, one of the owners.
She's talking about the restaurant's banh mi sandwiches, which begin with bread from Ba Le in Uptown, then a shmear of mayo and if you choose (which you should) their homemade liver pate, followed by crunchy cucumbers and sliced jalapenos.
"We do add the pate for extra flavor, along with the pork roll that we spend hours making," Mac said.
The pork roll is definitely worth trying. Think of it as the best homemade deli meat you'll have in a sandwich; it's sliced thin and packed into the sturdy loaves, before the requisite garnish of crunchy, pickled carrots and daikon radish.
There are also rice noodle bowls crowned with lettuce and cukes, plus that daikon-carrot garnish, as well as cilantro and juicy grilled pork patties. Scallions and peanuts add a bit of crunch.
Don't overlook their pho - also worth savoring - with its signature heady, rich beef broth.
"It does take 15 to 18 hours just to make the broth. It does take a lot of time and a lot of work," Mac said.
You choose what goes in the bowl: maybe tendon or tripe for the adventurous, thinly-sliced raw beef for the more predictable - which, by the way, gets cooked as soon as the hot broth hits it. Mac says just don't go overboard with the fresh garnishes that are set down alongside your bowl. A squeeze of lime maybe, or a piece of basil, but take it easy.
"I always tell my clients to taste the broth itself, prior to adding anything else. A lot of people just put everything in before they taste the broth, and then they lose all the flavoring. I always tell them eat, try the broth itself and then add everything else later," Mac said.
7221 W. Forest Preserve Dr., Norridge