Green Basil: a welcoming cornerstone of downtown Naperville

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Grace Aigner, Staff Writer

As we begin to see what the end of the pandemic could look like, one of the most noticeable differences is the amount of businesses that have shut down as a result of the economic downturn. In Illinois, about 5,100 restaurants were expected to close over the past two years. Fortunately, the Naperville favorite Green Basil was not one of them.

Home to more than 260 restaurants, Naperville offers a wide variety of menu types and dining venues. With cuisines from around the world, including Italian, Japanese, American and more, you can find almost anything. Of those restaurants, six are Vietnamese but only one of the six makes its home in downtown Naperville. 

Located on East Jefferson Avenue, Green Basil has been a community establishment for almost a decade. Having grown in popularity throughout its years, the restaurant provides authentic Vietnamese food and a welcoming dining experience.

Kessara Montoya, the lead server and front-of-house manager, has been a part of Green Basil almost as long as it’s been in business. Montoya said that Green Basil has made it their goal to create a comfortable atmosphere where guests can enjoy themselves and leave with their stomachs full.

“[We want them to] just have a good time when they come in. I want them to feel like they’re at home,” Montoya said. 

Green Basil’s location is relatively inconspicuous, seated out of the way of the more heavily foot trafficked downtown center. Most people likely wouldn’t know where to look unless they were told, which can often be considered a problem in the restaurant business. Montoya said that the first opening weeks were slow until word got out.

“With us being new at that time it was pretty slow, but once word got out and people found where we were we got more and more foot traffic. It was all the stages of how a restaurant becomes popular in a community,” Montoya said.

From then on, Green Basil has been able to grow and maintain a loyal customer base. It has continued its success even throughout a time when restaurant business was at an all time low during the pandemic. Despite the unavoidable strain the pandemic had on the restaurant, Montoya attributed their sustained success to the community and loyal regulars they’ve cultivated over the past decade.

“We have wonderful customers who were very loyal and wanted us to stay in business. When we couldn’t have anyone in the restaurant they’d support us with carry outs and now that we’re open they support us by dining in,” Montoya said.

What makes Green Basil unique is not simply the loyal community itself, but the friendly relationship the staff have with their customers. Montoya says one of the best things about customer service is developing a closeness with regulars. She added that that relationship carries on outside the restaurant’s doors.

“I’ve seen our customers outside of the restaurant in the ‘real world’ [and] we always say hi. They’re just so friendly,” Montoya said.

Connecting the community and the establishment is, unsurprisingly, the food. Nick Ngyuen, the head chef and owner, takes immense pride in the authenticity and quality of the Vietnamese dishes he serves. And Montoya believes that investment is what sets Green Basil apart from other Vietnamese restaurants.

“The way [Nick] cooks…you can feel the love in what he does, how he makes his soup and his broth is unbelievable. I’ve tried other places’ pho and it’s not the same,” Montoya said.

Pho, which is a soup dish made with a broth, meat like pork or beef, rice noodles and herbs, is the most popular dish on the menu and for good reason. Reviews of the restaurant are overwhelmingly positive and many of which rave about the Pho in particular.

“Their pho was amazing! Super delicious broth, perfect for warming up on a cold windy day,” Jihye Park said in a Google review.

“If I could give this 100 stars I would. The meatball pho was amazing,” another review reads.

Although the pho is in the menu’s limelight, Montoya says there are a variety of dishes worth ordering, a personal favorite of hers being the yellow curry. 

The food quality and homey atmosphere of Green Basil is what attracts a wide range of demographics to the secluded location. Bringing in a variety of people together, Montoya believes that anyone can walk through the door when they’re looking for a comfort meal and a welcoming community.

“We have people on their lunch breaks, we have people meeting up that they haven’t seen in a while and they just sit and talk for hours. We have families, we have business luncheons– everything. We just have the most wonderful community for the restaurant,” Montoya said.