By Sashank Sankar
How much food can you throw into a bowl? For many restaurants nowadays, it isn’t a matter of how much you can, but how much you can’t.
Food bowls have become popular in recent years, with many different places trying their hands at the trend. For most, bowl configuration is the same: Start off with a base, add some protein, mix in sauces, and add toppings.
It’s a simple (and somewhat vague) process, but the approach varies wildly from eatery to eatery, depending on the cuisine. Most start with a rice base, although some restaurants offer a variety of greens as well. Proteins usually come in the form of meat, tofu, or beans, and then there are veggies, all at the eater’s discretion.
The sauces/dressings and toppings are where the bowls’ individual flavor identities emerge.
You might be thinking, “If it’s just throwing things into a bowl and mixing them up, I can do it at home, right?” Well, yes and no. It takes time, creativity, and effort to experiment with getting a bowl’s flavor and texture combinations just right, and a variety of restaurants in and around Charlottesville have perfected it, each in a slightly different way.
Poke Sushi Bowl
Barracks Road Shopping Center and 101 14th St. NW
If you’re looking for a sushi fix, Poke Sushi’s Hawaiian-inspired bowls come with your choice of base (rice or mixed greens), protein (a variety of fish, plus chicken and tofu), sauces, and toppings from avocado to sesame seeds.
Roots Natural Kitchen
1329 W. Main St.
A popular spot for UVA students, Roots combines different ingredients to create new flavor experiences. Here, you can go with a base of grains (bulgur, rice) and/or mixed greens, with protein varying from marinated chicken to barbecue tofu. Come early though, because there’s always a line out the door and down the block. Nowhere near the Corner? Citizen Bowl Shop at 223 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall has similar offerings at lunchtime.
1200 Emmet St. N
Cava, a chain that recently opened at the intersection of Barracks Road and Emmet Street, does bowls with a Mediterranean twist. The base here consists of rice and mixed greens or, if you so desire, pita bread. Mezeh Mediterranean Grill, in The Shops at Stonefield, has a comparable vibe and menu.
The Juice Laundry
722 Preston Ave and 1411 University Ave.
The Juice Laundry’s vegan options are a bit of a departure from the rice, protein, and greens bowls that have taken over lunch menus. Instead, you can get açai smoothie bowls, with your choice of fruit or vegetable smoothie as a base, and a variety of toppings (sliced banana, oatmeal, seeds) to go along with it. It’s a sweet yet healthy alternative. The Juice Place offers options for folks visiting the Downtown Mall, and Corner Juice, located at 1509 University Ave., satisfies students’ cravings.