Chicago's Lower West Side might seem an unlikely location to find authentic Vietnamese cuisine based on cherished family recipes, but Pilsen's HaiSous restaurant is proving doubters wrong. Owners Thai and Danielle Dang have created an unpretentious hit that is winning over locals and visitors alike. “HaiSous” means “two pennies,” a reference to how much money the Dang's had after their first restaurant fell victim to the schemes of a questionable business partner. Frugality is at the heart of the simple and unassuming look throughout. Classy bamboo tables and ceilings effectively portray a Southeast Asian theme, with ornate screens and a bamboo wall deployed to divide the space. Prized tables have a view of the kitchen and everything is very close together, for a cozy arrangement that prioritizes conviviality over privacy. Decorations include a collection of curios and artifacts from the owners' world travels
The menu is culled from Dang family recipes brought over from Vietnam, with high quality ingredients and exquisitely prepared. Favorites include the ever-popular banh mi sandwiches, soft-shell crab over ribbons of mango and carrot, and whole fish (fluke, in this instance) with crispy skin and semi-sweet dipping sauce that feeds two. The beverage program offers signature cocktails and a wonderful wine list. Desserts are traditional Vietnamese fruit-only creations.
HaiSous offers the city's best Vietnamese cuisine, in a bustling setting that is simple but eminently appealing.