Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Big Bowl of Vegan Noodles just off Michigan Avenue

Big Bowl: (River North), Chicago
60 E. Ohio St.

Vegetarian Menu at Big Bowl.jpgAfter joking about chain restaurants, Dan asked what we were both thinking, "don't you want to go to those places to make sure chains keep up the vegan options?" Apparently, PF Chang serves "really good tofu," but we rolled into Big Bowl, part of the Lettuce Entertain You Restaurant empire. They have an explicit vegetarian menu; plus, they are a few blocks closer to all of the usual rave that goes on about the general love of Macs at the Michigan Avenue Apple Store that we had just left surfing for inspiration. As we walked in Big Bowl, we got excited about the locally roasted Intelligentsia fair trade coffee on the chalkboard.

Kung Pao Spinach and Tofu at Big Bowl.jpgThis wasn't my first trip to Big Bowl, but tonight the service was especially good. Our server seemed sincerely attentive, frequently tiding the table, and offering sharing plates to "family style it," as Dan put it. Kung pao spinach comes with seared tofu that brilliantly matches its pan-fried thick noodles, roasted peanuts and blackened chilies. Dan enjoyed it quite well, too. The sichuan eggplant was a respectable choice - very tender and caramelized, but no match for my love of seared vegan food. Servers can flag the order as vegetarian for the kitchen, and ours offered to steam the tofu instead of searing it in a pan also used for meat; but we wouldn't have it. You can walk up to the back counter and put your own combination together, too.

Sichuan Eggplant at Big Bowl.jpgAs we were about to leave for groceries, Dan smiled and held up a flyer from San Francisco Bicycle Coalition: "Waving Wednesdays. If you're on a bike & it's Wednesday, then Wave!" The back answered common questions: What is it? You wave to them and they wave back. Does it cost anything? 3 calories per wave. What counts? Moving your hand back and forth three times; nodding or saluting do not count. And my favorite: Do I really have to do this? Yes, you have to. Dan finished, "too bad it's not Wednesday."

Chris with Groceries at Trader Joes on Ontario (photo: Dan K.)_2.jpgAfter stocking up on groceries, I felt like putting my bicycle on the train. I didn't want the cold outside. But I wanted to lug bags of groceries on a train I'd likely need to wait for even less than simply putting them in my bicycle's carriers and pedalling off. As I cycled home, Arrow Messenger's billboard showed 22 degrees F, but - as lofty mittens, a thickly woven office button down shirt and a glass of red wine kept me warm - I was glad I hadn't let the cold take charge over me. I was even a bit too warm once inside my home. My dad calls later and tells me he walked to the train today from his home in the suburbs, about 3 miles each way.

Chris at Big Bowl (photo: Dan K.).jpg
Photos: Chris B. and Dan K.


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