this week we took things west and then east by visiting the real chow baby off howell mill road. all-you-can-eat, make-your-own stir fry? why, that sounds “fun and unique” and perfect for a hungry group of twentysomethings! read on to see if it satisfied our appetite or left us wanting for something more.
upon walking through the double doors, you will feel comfortable and welcomed. chow baby is a spacious place with lots of room to accommodate everyone in your party. they gladly pushed together a few tables on the covered pavilion to comfortably seat our group of twelve (another nrw high!) it was nice to get to sit together and not feel crowded or on top of one another.
considering the “diy nature of the stir fry assembly,” it makes sense that the décor itself is a little more contemporary and modern. “its industrial-esque aesthetic” makes you feel cool and hip. although it wasn’t too rowdy on our wednesday night, on a busier evening, it is “bustling and loud.”
most folks stuck with water to wet their whistles, but a handful branched out to try adult beverages. i will admit that the specialty drinks menu looked quite inviting! jon kept it real and ordered a double jameson on the rocks, “a favorite of his since middle school.” wait, should we be worried…? his drink did come with a lime wedge, quite unnecessary, but he made do. surprisingly it paired well with the spicy lo mein dish he made first. who knew!
now, as you know by this point, you get to build your own stir fry here at chow baby, choosing from the “smorgasbord of options” they have available right at your fingertips. you can choose rice or noodles as your base; you can even choose to make a wrap or soup out of your ingredients. the possibilities are nearly endless! i hopped up with the second wave of eaters to make a plateful. i don’t usually finish my meals (i might the queen of leftovers), but i wanted to make sure i tried a couple different dishes, so i took it easy on my first go-round. i scooped white rice into my veggie bowl and topped it with baby corn, water chestnuts (i love those things, despite the fact that they have no flavor whatsoever), a few other vegetables, and a couple spoonfuls of peanut sauce. i then grabbed the smaller protein bowl to select my meat. so many choices! i decided on steak, an egg, and a dash of spices. i clearly wasn’t getting too adventurous to start.
i slid my bowls in front of the grill top, headed back to the table, and anxiously awaited for my piping hot creation to arrive. my hesitation with make-your-own restaurants, whether it’s stir-fry or burgers or anything for that matter, is that i have the tendency to pile on all the things i like that really don’t go together at all. thankfully my first bowl didn’t have that problem. the problem it had was that it was quite bland. i hadn’t ladled on enough sauce and needed to kick up the spices and seasonings by about a million notches. i ate about half my bowl, threw in the chopsticks, and then returned to the line for round two.
my second bowlful, thankfully, was much better. i went with noodles this time, green beans, zucchini, LOTS of teriyaki sauce, and sausage. and although i might have overdone the sauce in reaction to the lack of sauce on my first dish, at least there was flavor. again, you will need many ladles of sauce on your dish; “one to two simply does not cut it.”
jon got a little more adventurous with his first bowl, throwing together lo mein, steak, bell peppers, cilantro, cabbage, spicy thai bbq sauce, and pepper paste. “fortunately, he likes his stir fry like he likes women: HOT.” and that hot plate of stir fry was better than his second concoction, which was brown rice, calamari, pork, chicken, bok choy, spicy mustard, tomato, and cabbage in a tortilla. interesting, right? although quite outside the box, it wasn’t as delicious as he was hoping.
you can really get as creative as you want at a place like chow baby, trying different mixes of sauces and spices and meats. the list goes on and on! some folks “know just what they want – green things and garlic-y things and spicy things – and tend to make a variation on the same meal every time, but that doesn’t make them any less delicious!” it’s really up to you about what you will be enjoying when you come.
do i see myself coming back to chow baby, the new american stir fry? honestly, probably not by choice because i, and others, really did feel it was just “okay.” this idea that “it takes practice and experimenting to figure out the right thing to order” is not really what i’m looking for when i’m out to eat. folks do say that with a place like chow baby, if you don’t like your meal, it’s your fault. although i can’t really argue with that statement, i don’t necessarily like it. ha! you do have the opportunity to get creative, because if you don’t care for something, you can set it aside and try something else. i guess i can buy that argument. however, if i do find myself here again, i will probably try some of the suggested recipes if i find them to my liking. otherwise, i’ll be looking for another stir fry joint in town to love.
yeah, baby, yeah! wait, should that be “chow, baby, chow” instead?