Forgive the title of this post. It's horrible, but I couldn't resist.
There are many noodle places in Evanston, but Joy Yee certainly gets the most attention. With their gargantuan menu with big pictures, humongous entrees served in hollowed out pineapples, huge fruit drinks with disgusting black tapioca balls at the bottom, the place is always packed. And when I say packed, I mean packed. You could barely slide a paper doll between the tables. When they closed down to renovate and expand into the space immediately next door, there was speculation that the crowding would ease up. I predicted there would just be more tables incredibly close to each other. I was pretty much right.
I like Joy Yee's food, and it's kind of fun, and they do make a great Thai Iced Coffee which would be on my list for my last meal on death row, but there's a little, mostly unsung, noodle place a few blocks down that I would much rather spend my time and money in. I'm not sure how I missed Cozy Noodles & Rice for so long, but I'm glad I finally found it. I'm pretty sure I've blogged about it before, but I'm going to do it again. It's like a family friendly Joy Yee without all the flash. The walls are adorned with kitsch - old lunchboxes, pez dispensers, bobbleheads, etc....but somehow they manage to come off as more of a wierd collection than an attempt at retro-cool. That's neither here nor there for me personally, but Linnea loves looking at it all. The menu is considerably shorter than Joy Yee's, but it has all the noodle shop staples plus some specials, and I'm yet to have a bad dish. Their Thai Iced Coffee is also excellent and they also have a selection of fruit freezes, though I'm not sure about the tapioca.
Tonight we were sat in the smaller room for the first time, along with a few other families (possibly a birthday party?), which made me feel comfortable and not overly concerned about Linnea's volume or penchant to wander around. Linnea really enjoyed the fact the tables in that room were old sewing tables that still had the wheel and the foot pedal. We had the spring rolls which are unlike any I've had anywhere else - I'm not even sure what's in them. Rather than the rice paper the wrap is a thicker spongier material, and fillings are thicker too - tofu or something, all drizzled with a very sweet sauce. I get them whenever I go, and Linnea even likes it. I ordered the Bammee noodles and the waitress tried to talk me out of them, giving me the sense that I was too white for this dish, which only solidified my resolve. They turned out to be ramen type noodles with very good BBQ pork, peanuts, and a couple pieces of crabmeat (imitation I'm sure). It wasn't bad but the noodles were too sweet. We also got Yakisoba noodles with tofu and carrots, which Linnea loved and I liked too. Linnea was in a good mood and willing to try things, including the tofu, which she liked. The service was very friendly and prompt, but not rushed, though the food came very quickly. Though we didn't get it tonight, they have great mochi too (something I'm pretty sure Joy Yee doesn't have).
This is probably one of the most family friendly restaurants in Evanston, though you might never suspect it to be. My daughter loves the food and the atmosphere, and it's great to be able to take her some place where grilled cheese isn't an option.