Chow Main is the latest addition to the downtown restaurant scene. The fast casual restaurant opened in November at Main and Fifth streets, in a space that had most recently been a convenience store.
While the restaurant may be new, its downtown roots go back years. Chow Main is run by Austin Wong, whose father, Paul Wong, has operated a successful Chinese food booth just around the corner in the Main Street Market for well over a decade.
But Chow Main differentiates itself by offering some unique touches with its Asian fusion food. The restaurant sells bowls of noodles, rice and greens, topped with proteins and vegetables — customers choose what base they want and the bowl's protein, vegetables, garnishes and sauces. The restaurant also has five signature bowls, ranging from the Taipei Light, which features basil chicken on warm lo mein, to the Creole, a shrimp, corn and Brussels sprouts dish over steamed white rice.
When my wife and I went over for lunch one recent weekday, we were greeted by a long line of downtown workers. We made our selections and noticed with relief that while the line of customers was several deep, it was moving quickly.
My wife chose a lo mein bowl, topped with fried tofu, shredded carrots, stir-fried bok choy, pickled onions and stir-fried veggies for $8. She added (for $1) a tea egg to the bowl for an extra dose of protein and made it a combo with an egg roll and a soft drink for $2.25 more.
I decided to get the mala spicy bowl, which featured chicken on top of a bed of cold noodles, topped with pickled cucumbers, shredded carrots, crispy garlic and green onions. I also added an egg and made it a combo.
The meals were quickly assembled and put into a brown cardboard box. We grabbed chopsticks and forks, sat down at a table and dug in.
My bowl had a generous serving of chicken, well-seasoned with chilis and cumin. The spicy dish made a nice contrast with the cold noodles and there was an ample amount of vinegar from the cucumbers.
My wife liked her crispy tofu, served on a bed of warm lo mein. The egg roll was also a standout. It was crispy and not greasy, a step up from the usual Chinese food found in shopping centers around town, and the duck sauce served with the egg rolls was a nice touch. It was fresh and a couple of notches above the plastic packets you normally get.
Chow Main is a great spot for a fast, light, fresh meal. You can get in and out of there fast and go back to work feeling good and not like you’re going to have to take a nap under your desk by midafternoon. And if you’re worried about downtown parking, they’ll validate your ticket if you park in the adjoining Galvez Garage.
About the only drawback is that Chow Main is currently only open for lunch on weekdays. It would be nice to stop by for a weekend meal.
501 Main St.
10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday
(225) 330-4813; facebook.com/chowmainbr
Pros: Fast, fresh, fairly healthy meals; egg rolls and sauces a cut above standard Chinese restaurant fare
Cons: Only open for lunch on weekdays