At times I feel walking into a restaurant without any preconceived notion is the way to experience the true value of it. All I knew about Big Bowl, was based on my Twitter communications with #spicychat and that they support sustainable local produce and enjoy well-seasoned food creations. Big Bowl is one of #SpicyChat’s loyal foodie supporters. Needless to say, on my recent trip to Chi-Town I had to stop by and say hello.
Co incidentally, I was in Chicago to attend the #IGC12 Independent Garden Center Show (world’s largest trade show and conference for independent garden center owners, managers and buyers). This wonderful trip couldn’t have happened without the support of PAllen Smith, Bonnie Plants, and BG Garden.
It seemed befitting to pay a visit to a restaurant which not only supports foodies and serves locally grown produce, but have gotten more involved with their Seed to Table innovative approach by contracting with farmers to grow sustainable/organic crops. Crops that are grown from heirloom seeds, selected by Big Bowl, and cultivated on the farm with the help of the restaurant staff. Now they are serving more than 700 lbs each week to four of their Chicago Locations.
I walked into a vibrant & modern restaurant proudly showcasing an open kitchen with fresh local seasonal produce bar. Over the course of my lunch I couldn’t help notice how completely packed the restaurant got. Conveniently located on E Ohio Street, it is walking distance from Magnificent Mile, drawing clientele from both tourists and Chi Town residents.
A quick glance over the menu displayed a familiar menu serving classic regional Chinese and Thai specialties. There was a ‘Group Share’ menu, Big Bowl menu and the Classic al carte dining. Oh I wish my boys were with me. After all how much can a girl eat? The Summer Harvest Celebration menu grabbed my attention. Each time you order from their specials, Big Bowl and Free bird donate $1 to growing homes. After all charity begins at home, so I ordered the spicy Sichuan eggplant. Locally grown eggplant, freebird chicken, sungold tomatoes dressed in a spicy Sichuan sauce – yes, it was indeed ‘spicy’ and I couldn’t get enough of it. Hands down, one of the better eggplants I have tasted outside of China.
I was told by our pleasant server that their ‘ginger-ale’ is homemade and it is the signature drink. Not being a ginger ale fan, I politely refused and enjoyed my refreshing and cool cocktail; a nice compliment to my spicy meal.
Of course personally for me Cold Sesames Noodle is reminiscent of good old times in NYC, so I couldn’t help ordering a bowl. Cold noodles lightly dressed in an addictive peanut sauce, garnished with cucumber julienne; yes it was light and refreshing. Though, I didn’t quite grasp the lying down bowl concept in the presentation.
A meal at Big Bowl is incomplete without their signature ‘From our Farm to your Table’ stir fry bar. What a fun and interactive way to enjoy your meal. Now, stir fry has been around for donkey years, what makes Big Bowl special? Allow me to elaborate. Fresh local produce, protein from small family farms, curries made from scratch, freshly toasted spices and all, authentically prepared capture the essence of flavors signature to Big Bowl. Need I say anymore?
My signature Big Bowl: chicken, greens from the bar, panang curry, and jasmine rice. The flavor was lighter than any Thai curry I have been exposed too. While I was just pondering that, with great pride the sweet server informed me the curries are all made in-house from scratch starting from roasting the chilies. There is not a more comforting dish for me than the aroma of kaffir leaf infusing the chicken and perfectly cooked jasmine rice.
Like Big Bowl, I am a big advocate of good quality ingredients. Quoting Julia Child:
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”
That is precisely what is unique about it. You can taste the difference in Big Bowl dishes. Reasonably priced dishes without comprising the flavors & authenticity served by friendly and knowledgeable staff, tickle your palate with incredibly rich and satisfying flavors. How can you not fall in love?
Even though I was dining alone (indeed a rarity for me), I had a wonderful time. Between the vibrant energy of the restaurant and the friendly staff, I felt at home. Big Bowl manages to re-create authentic flavors producing bold and bright flavors with fresh produce, herbs, and clean flavors. So all you people hooked on heat and complex yet comforting flavors of Thai & Chinese cuisine has to offer, Big Bowl is one restaurant I am pleased to endorse is worth the trek, regardless of which suburb of Chicago you reside in.
Special THANK YOU to Ms. Jodry for making me feel so welcome and special.