Monday, July 11, 2011

Big Bowl in Chicago

60 E Ohio Street
Chicago, Illinois
Happy Hour: 3 - 6


This is my new favorite place. Seriously, I've never really liked Chinese food...and I like this. They use all sorts of fresh veggies, have plenty of vegetarian options, and work really hard to do what they can to run an almost completely "green" establishment. I only wish it weren't so far away.


During my stay in Chicago, I ate at Big Bowl twice. Once for dinner (which included a super yummy Thai Iced Coffee dessert) and again for happy hour. I would go again if there were one near me...but apparently they are only in Chicago, a few towns in Minnesota, and the D.C. area. Too bad. Their "green" way of running the restaurant is so Portland. They even have paper straws. Oh, and the server's uniform is made from bamboo.

When I was there for dinner, I had the hardest time trying to decide what to have. There are plenty of vegetarian options. So many, in fact, that they have an entire page in the menu devoted to the non meat-eaters. In the end (and with a little suggestive help from our server), I ordered the "fill your own bowl" stir fry with a Kung Pao sauce. This do-it-yourself business is three times better (and cleaner) than any Mongolian grill I've ever been to. Plus, there's no risk when choosing a sauce since they have the main ingredients put together for you. So yummy. And so many fresh veggies. I loved every bite.

Back for happy hour a week (or so) later, I found myself with that same problem. So many veggie options. We ended up ordering four items (which kept the two of us plenty full while out on the architecture boat tour--a must, if you've never been) to share. Well, one of them I didn't touch...but the rest were plenty to keep me satisfied until later that evening.


First to the table was the plate of spicy peanut noodles. I love the way they are plated...as if the bowl tipped over it was so full. The noodles were good and the sauce far better than the stuff I make at home.


The chicken egg rolls seemed to be a big hit. They were served with two dipping sauces. In fact, everything came that way. There were so many sauces to choose from. I liked all but the mustard sauce...too spicy for me. And it's not a regular heat spice, it's that horseradish spice that I just can't do.


The salad rolls were my absolute favorite. They called them fresh summer rolls...but anyone who eats Thai food as regularly as I do knows that they are called salad rolls. They came with peanut sauce and a sweet chili sauce. (In my opinion, the peanut sauce went better with the flavors of the salad rolls.)


And then there was the veggie gyoza. They were good...but a tiny bit oily. I am sure I wouldn't have liked them nearly as much if they hadn't been pan fried...but it made them a little bit oily, is all. They came with more sauces as you can see from the picture. So many sauces made for so many different flavor combinations. I loved it.


To wash it all down, both of us went with the specialty cocktail of the day. It was light and refreshing, only five dollars, and mixed with their own house-made ginger ale.

I'm not sure how long it will take to convince the people of Big Bowl to move to Portland, but once they do I'll be there. Weekly.

Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets


-b


Big Bowl

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