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Saigon Sisters Opening at Northwestern Memorial Hospital Downtown

By Janet Rausa Fuller | September 6, 2013 12:05pm
 Saigon Sisters opens in Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Galter Pavilion.
Saigon Sisters at Northwestern's Galter Pavilion
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STREETERVILLE — The newest place to get your banh mi fix is where you go to get your back fixed.

Saigon Sisters opens Monday on the second floor of Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Galter Pavilion, 251 E. Huron St.

The Vietnamese eatery started three years ago as a booth inside the Chicago French Market, 131 N. Clinton St., where it's still going strong. A second location, a sit-down restaurant with lunch and dinner service, is a short walk from the market at 567 W. Lake St.

Unlike those two locations, the 900-square-foot outpost at Northwestern will serve breakfast, Vietnamese street food-style. Among the morning offerings: congee (rice porridge); banh mi op la, an omelet on a baguette with Chinese sausage, pate and other meats, and La Colombe coffee.

The lunch menu offers banh mi, the classic Vietnamese sandwich; banh bao (steamed buns with fillings); pho (soup); rice bowls; salads, and spring rolls.

Sweets are from local women-owned businesses, including Vanille Patisserie, Vosges, Nonna Santi's Biscotti and Gail's Brownies.

Owner Mary Nguyen Aregoni is one of the Saigon Sisters; her sister Theresa Nguyen is the other. Her mom also cooks, and her husband helps with the front-of-house and business end. Their executive chef is Matt Riordan, formerly of Pops for Champagne.

Aregoni said being able to bring her native cuisine to a wider audience was "gratifying."

"I can't believe it. Here I am putting Vietnamese words on the window — pho, banh mi — and people get it," she said.

The other dining options in the hospital's revamped eating area stick to the healthy fast-food theme: Au Bon Pain, GRK Greek Kitchen and Protein Bar.

Remi Love, an administrative assistant in Northwestern's surgery department, paused Friday near the Saigon Sisters entrance, where a locksmith was fixing the door. She said she's been ready and waiting.

"I Googled the menu and everything," Love said.

Love's co-worker, Latonnia Tulson, said when the other restaurants across the way opened earlier this year, the lines were so long "they had it roped off like a Hollywood premiere."

This likely isn't the end of Saigon Sisters' expansion. Aregoni said she has been asked by the French Market operators to join a permanent outdoor market in the works in New York's Herald Square. A representative with the market did not respond to requests for comment.

"I'd be up for that. I want to do it," Aregoni said.

Saigon Sisters in the Galter Pavilion is open weekdays from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays.