Big Bowl

Asian, Chinese, Dim Sum, Fast Food, Thai, Vietnamese
$$$$ ($14 and under)
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Editorial Review

Few are the restaurants that can engage both children and discriminating parents. That alone makes Big Bowl something of a find. Pint-size patrons get a Chinese-carryout box of crayons, kiddie chopsticks and a fortune cookie, giving their guardians a chance to read the pan-Asian menu. Vegetable pot stickers with plum sauce? Summer rolls packed with fresh greens, herbs and shrimp? Both are good, and easy to eat. There's chicken in a gentle coconut curry, shrimp in a blaze of ginger and chilies (watch out!), and comforting noodle dishes that put most of Chinatown's to shame. The delivery is quick, the food fresh; the stocks are made anew each day, and the nose-tingling ginger ale is shot through with real ginger. And I've watched more than a few kids wander up to the open kitchen to check out the enticing display of ingredients, where you can choose your own and turn them over to the stir-fry cooks. Big and beautiful, the restaurant also counts a lively bar scene. Sure, it's a chain. But when's the last time you felt so good about eating fast food?
-- Tom Sietsema