With workdays getting longer and lunch hours getting shorter (especially a lunch “hour” that only lasts 30 minutes!), it’s more important than ever to ensure we are getting all the nutrients we need to keep moving along. While shakes and smoothies may have all of the nutrition we need, they tend to lack a few important details like substance, texture, flavor and the ability to satiate. While the point of my argument is not to diminish the fruity convenience of a smoothie, there are certainly heartier methods of getting the foodstuffs you need without sacrificing the above qualities. My answer? The food bowl.
Vegetables, grains, protein, everything you need is right there in one bowl and all you have to do is shovel it in and hope you make it to your post-lunch meeting on time. Even if you can’t finish off your beatific, bountiful bowl in the short moments you are allotted to eat, you can cover it up, stick it in the fridge and pull it out after your boardroom boredom finally draws to an end. Not only that, I’m willing to bet that said bowl will taste twice as nice after it’s sat for a bit, letting all the scrumptious flavors mix and mingle … just like those leftovers you forgot at home from last night’s dinner that you intended to bring to work the next day.
Over on the corner of Magazine and Louisiana you can discover and delight in one of the city’s newest spot for food bowl fanatics, Poke Loa. The poke craze sweeping the nation has at last reached the Deep South. Made with a combination of rice, raw fish like tuna and salmon, and topped with items like crab, seaweed salad, tobiko, baby cucumbers, avocado, ponzu, sesame oil and so much more, one could conceivably make a different bowl of poke every time they ordered. The folks behind Poke Loa also are about to open a second and third location for their popular restaurant on Metairie Road and downtown on Girod Street. Plus, they’re on Waitr, so your penchant for poke can be placated no matter where you are in the GNO.
Well-patronized by denizens of the Riverbend neighborhood, Ba Chi Canteen is a great go-to for mouth-watering, affordable lunch items that are as sumptuous as they are satiating. Though Vietnamese restaurants all over town offer a version of Ba Chi’s vermicelli bowl, none have their signature, uber-crispy egg rolls that I can never resist adding to the mix. My favorite combination includes the usual rice noodle salad with cabbage, shredded lettuce, carrots and rice noodles topped with charbroiled pork, crispy pork egg rolls and all the Vietnamese fish sauce I can get my hands on. It’s a meal I usually can’t manage to finish in one sitting and all for less than $10.
Doing a round-up on food bowls wouldn’t be complete without including the ubiquitous Korean dish bibimbap, more particularly, the dolsot bibimbap found at Little Korea BBQ. Prepared and served in a hot stone bowl (a dolsot), the dish includes things like zucchini, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, cucumbers, kimchi, rice and your choice of marinated beef, spicy chicken, pork loin, short rib or tofu with a raw egg served on top that cooks from the heat of the bowl. They also offer several flavors of patbingsu or a Korean “sno-ball” that is tasty as it is enormous. Be prepared to share …
Though it’s rather obvious that Asian and Polynesian cooks already have the food bowl phenom “in the bag,” there are definitely other worthwhile options that don’t fall under this category. Take for instance the grain bowls offered downtown in the South Market District at The Daily Beet. Try the “Morning” bowl any old time with quinoa, egg, avocado, black beans, corn and cotija or sink your spoon (or fork?) into a “Wellness” filled with the nutty flavor of warm wild rice, tangy goat cheese, toasted pistachios, grapes, currants, arugula and sesame balsamic dressing. At no more than $10.50 per dish, you can eat your bowl and have your smoothie too like a Sweet Mint with pineapple and coconut or a Chocoheaven with banana, raw cacao, sea salt and agave.
Finally, set your sights on a more Southern-type saucer at Refuel. Known for breakfast and brunch, this spot in the Riverbend on Hampson Street features a “build-your-own” grit bowl where you can add as many or as few ingredients your little heart desires. Top a bowl of creamy, corn grits with things like roasted red peppers, fresh avocado, thick-cut bacon, spicy andouille, spinach, eggs (any style), feta, ham, cheddar and more. Even if you put literally everything they have on your great, big ol’ bowl-o-grits, it still wouldn’t cost you more than $16. But how hungry are you, really?
*Article originally published in the October 2017 issue of Where Y’at Magazine
*Refuel is closed