The Short Course:
To avoid wait: Avoid weekday lunch rush.
Noise level: Low.
Bathroom amenities: No changing table.
High chairs? Yes.
Kids’ menu? Yes.
Anything healthy for kids? Yes.
Food allergy concerns? Component-driven so allergens can be easily avoided, with the exception of soy.
Thad and Ryan Gillies, the owners of Logan Restaurant, opened Chow Asian Street Food on Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor this past March. The bright red exterior makes it hard to miss and the light-filled dining room is contemporary and welcoming. We have long been fans of Logan, but it is decidedly not a real kid-friendly restaurant, so we were excited to see what the Gillies brothers could do in a more casual, kid-friendly setting.
Chow builds on the popular trends of fast casual dining and Poke-style build-a-bowl entrees. As a family with little ones we appreciate both. The build-a-bowl movement really works for our family because it is so easy to select various proteins and sides over a bed of staple grain (rice, noodles, etc.) and then allow the kids to pick at all of these options individually. Visitors should note that Chef and owner, Thad Gillies, developed the menu as a pan-Asian experience with all the interpretations and variations of the proud self-taught chef that he is. So, it’s not Chinese. It’s not Korean. It’s not Thai. It is inspired by those cuisines and the intention is really toward healthy, flavorful foods.
Mix, match, and munch
The grownups got a full Chow Bowl ($12) with coconut beef ($2 extra), atop rice as a base. Other protein options include Szechuan chicken, sesame garlic tofu, and pork belly. Veggie sides came next. Chow offers six seasonally rotating veggie and salad sides, which allow you to add flavor in a healthy way. We loved the beets and the green beans. Cilantro and homemade chili oil topped things off and made for a really tasty and personalized entrée.
We also tried both the Szechuan Chicken ($6) and Pork Belly ($6) Rou Jia Mo sandwiches; think dense, grilled flatbread stuffed with one of Chow’s sauced proteins and optional pickled onions. We found the sandwiches to be simple and satisfying and we recommend asking for an extra side of sauce for dipping. Chow offers fresh housemade soups which rotate daily ($4 for a cup, $6 for a bowl). We tried both the Tom Yung Walleye, a play on the popular Thai soup made with lemongrass and ginger infused broth and veggies, and the Duck Hot and Sour soup, with savory pieces of duck, a kick of vinegar, and julienned vegetables. We found both to be less spicy than we expected, but with fresh ingredients and rich flavor.
The kids’ menu at Chow offers a kid-sized version of their Chow Bowl (starch, meat, and veggies; $6), but that day our kids decided they weren’t feeling very adventurous so they both ordered a bowl of plain rice noodles (plain rice is also available; both $3) and got a little crazy by splashing some soy sauce on them. The fact that Chow offers both a plain rice bowl and a plain noodle bowl tells us that while they hope to push the adventure in the palates of our little ones a bit, at the end of the day they have our backs. They also sell their homemade flatbreads as a side item ($1), so even the pickiest kids won’t go hungry.
A great start, with more on the way
Even though it had only been open a short time when we visited, Chow was running quite smoothly. Team members were warm, welcoming and seemed genuinely excited to serve our family, patiently answering questions from our kids and making helpful family-friendly suggestions. Chef Thad was also a fantastic host, providing us with all sorts of details about their vision for the restaurant, the planning of the menu and future plans to provide order and delivery with Bill’s Beer Garden and the Beer Grotto. A fantastic idea which we are definitely excited to check out on an upcoming date night.
Chow Asian Street Food
208 W Liberty St Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734)369-6942 | chowannarbor.com
Open daily 11am-11pm