In the Bowl Vegetarian Noodle Bistro is a vegetarian’s dream come true. At first glance, it’s a Thai noodle restaurant that features an extensive menu with both noodle and non-noodle options but if carnivores allow themselves to try their variety of soy-based meat options, they might find themselves renouncing their meaty ways.
You can browse it for yourself by clicking here, but what you’ll notice is that the menu is divided into “episodes” and that there are a ton of them. There are appetizers (the “Starter Episode” – and my favorite are the soy chicken nuggets, but I can also vouch for the Melting Culture), salads, curries, soups, fried rice options, stir fried options, and noodle options. Each entree is served with a complimentary dessert – usually a red bean or rice pudding of sorts that helps to extinguish the fire in your mouth if you mistakenly order too much spice.
The menu is endlessly customizable and you can eat each thing in about 10 different ways. For example, there are five different “meats” to choose from (unless you are specifically ordering the BEEF noodle soup): chicken, beef, duck, fish and prawns – or you can order fresh or fried tofu.
Now unless you’re a committed vegetarian or vegan, the thought of fake meat is probably making you raise an eyebrow. I entered with a healthy dose of skepticism – my only faux meat experiences have been negative. But once you try the meat at In the Bowl, you’ll find yourself scouring the menu to find out if you could order just a plate of meat alone. It’s that good. I have tried more than once to figure out how to make it at home and have never once found anything like it.
If you’re ordering noodles, you can choose from 8 different varieties: wide rice noodles, small rice noodles, tiny rice noodles, bean vermicelli, udon, chow mein, yakisoba or clear mung bean noodles. Your noodle selection should really be based on your personal preference or what you know. I personally alternate between the small rice noodles or the udon, but that’s just because it’s what I’m familiar with. You could always ask your server what they suggest for your dish, or take a risk and try something new. I doubt you’ll go wrong.
If you like your food spicy, In the Bowl is going to knock your socks off. Their spice-scale is higher than most places, so if you’re used to ordering a 5, you might want to dial it back to a 3 or a 4 because what you’re really going to get is a 10. I’m pretty comfortable at about a 4 and I would argue that if you’re used to eating a spicy bowl of pho to clear your sinuses, you might want to come try some soup here.
My go-to orders are the spicy green bean noodles with udon and EXTRA beef, because it’s so good and there is just never really enough. I’ve also ordered the eggplant salad, the cashew and pineapple fried rice, and most recently, the spicy beef soup. I’ve had plenty of bites of my dining companion’s selections, which most recently included the “red carpet noodle soup” which was strangely sweet!
In the Bowl is CLOSED ON WEDNESDAYS! Very important! I don’t like being disappointed and I don’t want you to be either! But should you not heed this warning and find yourself on this block, stop by the Arabica Lounge, a coffee shop that could actually be the living room of one of the design-mom blogs that I read; The Bus Stop, a bar that I am not cool enough to go to (I’m no hipster); Holy Smoke, a smokeshop that once had a refrigerator unit outside with a homeless man sleeping in it; and Apocalypse Tattoo, a tattoo parlor.You could make a pretty interesting date out of the shops on this block alone – but I’d head down the hill to my all-time favorite bar, Montana.
Here’s my Yelp review from 2008, just after my very first visit to In the Bowl. Still relevant after all these years!