This is Marie, contributing a description of a visit to Chow Bing, a Chinese restaurant in a tough location that I hope it can overcome. With any luck the Grady Hospital staff will discover the place and prop it up as more people discover it. It’s just around the curve from the hospital in the new Pencil Factory Lofts building.
I had been invited to attend Chow Bing’s media launch, but was not able to make it, so they asked us to come by another time. We went on a weekday evening so it was understandably a bit slow. The owner, Gary Lin, had a chance to sit with us for a while and talk about Chinese food, the restaurant business, locally-sourced ingredients, and a host of other things. Grant had previously met Gary at an event for his well-known restaurant, R Rice in Dunwoody. He is one of our favorite people in the restaurant business, and we were very interested in what he had to say.
You may recall from prior posts that we have frequently mentioned of the uniformity of tastes in American Chinese places. Chow Bing is not a standard American Chinese place, and he mentioned ruefully that there have been some people who walk in, inquire about chow mein or some other staple, and leave when they read the actual menu. Those people are missing out.
It’s not as though he hasn’t had experience in that kind of food; he just wants to do something different and healthier. Mr. Lin’s theory about why all those places are the same, as I understand it, is that you cannot hire a cook who will do things differently if they’ve been in the business too long. He mentioned the long hours and frustrating always-on-call nature of the restaurant business; I ventured to guess that if they’ve done it too long and are burned out, the reason they don’t want to change what they do is because then they’d have to be present and thinking about the job. If they’re on autopilot, their brain can be on the beach in Guam if they feel like it. And the food they make will of course taste like it was shipped in from Guam (on a steam tray in a slow boat) as a result.
Needless to say, this food did not taste as though it had waited long to meet us. I got the General’s chicken tenders, which have just enough sauce on them to put a pleasant tingle on your tongue without soaking through the wonderful crisp breading, over veggies and brown rice. Grant got the chicken burrito wrap with noodles. Mine was lovely, and I could have eaten two of them. Possibly next time I will pay the $3 to add a second helping of chicken. Grant, although he was a little startled by the texture of the noodles in his wrap at first, became quite fond of the thing even though it was too big to finish. Mind you, he’d eaten more than I had of the appetizer we’d gotten, a really wonderful plate of Wonton Nachos. Mr, Lin said they’d had to tweak the recipe a little on the spicy cilantro sauce that comes drizzled over the nachos, and we said it needed no more work.
We also each got bubble teas, a first for me. I am no longer a particularly great fan of artificial flavorings, so I wasn’t incredibly taken with my honeydew tea. Perhaps it would be better if there is a grape-flavored version, as that’s my weakness. The bubbles were better than I’d expected though. Apparently you can also get alcohol added if you like, which has got several local writers excited by the possibilities. We didn’t try that ourselves, but Grant was pleased with his Thai tea flavored drink.
The Lins make a concerted effort to source their ingredients locally, and use Springer Mountain chicken, which pleased Grant, as he’s a champion of this farm’s output. If you want to know why that’s a big deal, check their site. You’ll also find out why they can’t put a pound of chicken on their bowls the way the cheaper places can. But that’s okay, because it tastes so much better.
Chow Bing is the latest addition to a number of good restaurants in the Pencil Factory Lofts, including the Drafting Table and Caramba Cafe. These places on Decatur Street don’t get all the attention and foot traffic of the places on nearby Edgewood, but it’s a growing area in the Old Fourth Ward and definitely worth visiting. The parking is free and the neighborhood is very pedestrian-friendly for anybody who’d like to enjoy a nice walk after a meal. We definitely recommend our readers give this place a visit.
(Naturally, this was a media event [well, a follow-up to a media event] and our meal was complementary. It’s our policy to always note when we’ve received our meal without charge. If you would like to invite us to your restaurant’s media events, please drop Grant a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
You can see all the restaurants that we have visited for our blog on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s terrific for anybody planning a road trip through the southeast!