If you get lost on your way to Big Bowl, just look for the big bowl. It's bright red, about the size of Texas, and prominently displayed on the roof of the Asian restaurant. Whether it's from the big bowl outside or the steaming bowls inside (we'll get to those, too), this casual joint has major pull and is usually teeming with Gold Coasters thinkin' noodles.
Big Bowl's airy and spacious interior owes itself to soaring ceilings, a few stalks of bamboo and (in the summer) high tables placed in front of glass doors that open onto Cedar Street. The main attraction of the Big Bowl decor is the ingredients that go into your own big bowl: Red and yellow peppers, chilies, all sorts of spices, noodles and the pans that fry them find prominent placement in the restaurant's exhibition-style kitchen.
Once seated in your cushy red banquette, think about straying from your Diet Coke routine. Big Bowl's signature drinks include a homemade ginger ale (spicy and refreshing), fresh pots of tea (surprisingly robust) and a full bar (when near Rush and Division...). Appetizers won't surprise; expect a traditional but tasty selection of potstickers, egg rolls, satays and wontons. Entrees include the ever-popular kung pao chicken for the some who like it hot, and shrimp with snowpeas, mushrooms and rice for the some that don't. For desert, indulge your big sweet tooth with the big bowl brownie. If you're not a dessert diva, there's a sweet reward for you, too: The priciest dish on the menu is barely $12.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg