Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pei Wei -- It's What The Kids Are Eating

People are jealous of you because you live in Howard County.  Chef Nudnik lives deep in Montgomery County, but the Wiggles came to Baltimore -- so the Nudnik stopped in Columbia for the dinner that his family and friends wanted:
Had a great family meal at Pei Wei on Dobbin Road after the Wiggles concert the other day. While we are big fans of PF Chang's, Pei Wei is a bit more manageable with little kids. We had three families, which meant a table for twelve for the early bird Saturday night. 
A special shout to the manager who helped navigate a surly customer who was insistent on sitting in the middle of a section with 12 opens seats. She was great at diffusing what could have been an unpleasant situation and a long wait. She also keyed us in on the fact that each of the wok cooked dishes that are normally coated in a starchy and delicious substance can also be done healthy and really didn't loose much flavor.
While waiting in line to order can take a bit, they time it so tables open by the time you pay and are ready to sit. Part of their secret is that once ordered, the food comes out especially fast. It reminded me of Chinese takeout in New York where the buzzer would ring moments after you hung up the phone.  Everyone loved what they got with the exception of their featured noodle selection which was a bit bland.  Kids and parents love the edamame to start and very reasonably priced kids meals were a big hit. While not ideal for a intimate night of lingering conversation, Pei Wei hits the spot for fresh flavorful pan Asian food without the wait and at very reasonable prices. We will be back. Something to note: Pei Wei does not accept the Warrior Card (free at which gives 10 percent off at their full service restaurants.
I have to be honest that Pei Wei wasn't my favorite on my single visit.  I'd push Mango Grove on the other side of Dobbin Road.  But the Nudniks know their food -- and have two little guys who are restaurant veterans.  So I'll take the advice.


UhOhBadDog said...

The Nudniks are spot on to why Pei Wei is great for our clan. We also have two youngin's, and while a trip to PF Changs is asking a lot of them at this point in their lives, the ability to basically get the same good food, quickly, in a family friendly environment at Pei Wei suits us perfectly. It's a great hybrid blend of Nice Restaurant meets Fast Food that fills a distinct need.

Jenny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Criticizing a restaurant because your kid has selective eating disorder and doesn't like the way the one food she'll eat is prepared hardly seems fair. I don't like the spring rolls at Asean Bistro, but that one dish and its poor execution doesn't make it a bad restaurant.

HowChow said...

Just so the ground rules are out there, I'm totally okay with people describing what they ordered and how they thought it tasted.

I'm related to some children with limited menus, so I get Anon's point that we may not all want to take their advice. (Personally, I'm imagining my family's contribution: "The Cream Cheese and Chicken Nugget Blog" and its reviews of what crackers are best when you're just licking cheese off them. You don't care what the crackers taste like. You want them to be durable so that you can spread cream cheese a few times on each cracker.)

But I'm totally fine with people writing respectful opinions about restaurants -- even about restaurants that I really like.

We reach "not fair" when the comments are nasty, personal or get so weirdly aggressive that I wonder why anyone cares this much about one meal. I write a food blog. If I wonder why someone is spending this much time writing about a meal, then I'm confident that it's off the charts. Luckily for me, those "not fair" comments are rare.

sherringham said...

We're big fans of Pei Wei for a few reasons: quality asian food, the ability to order online and then pick up, the speed of service, and the wait time--which is pretty much non-existant even on a Friday or a Saturday night. My go-to is the Kung Pao with the peanuts for some added crunch.

And I agree--for those kids with selective palates, is any restaurant really a good play?

As for Asean Bistro, we went a few weeks ago and I was anything besides impressed. Though, I did like the tableside presentation of my sauce onto my softshell crab...

Anonymous said...

My 2 year old loves Hunan Manor, he loves to watch the fish swim around. Going there we are generally able to make a full meal without worries of a breakdown.

It doesn't hurt that the food, imo, is quite tasty.

My wife's Chinese family loves it to, so it's pretty much our go to place for Chinese in the area. Haven't made it out to Grace Garden yet though.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE P.F. Changs, but really don't like Pei Wei. I know they are owned by the same company, but the dishes at Pei Wei seem to be bland, more bready, and less careful composed. Other than having to navigate the Columbia Mall parking lot, P.F. Changs also has quick and easy curbside take out.

Trevor said...

Sorry to disagree with you Jenny, but about once every 3 months I get a serious hankering for Pei Wei's Lo Mein. It is easily the best Lo Mein around. It is the perfect amount, not overly greasy, and made with moderately high quality ingredients.

Also, I love that Pei Wei gives you massive water glasses (not the dinky plastic cups most places give you to "punish" you for not ordering a soda).

And, how does Pei Wei make their fortune cookies? They are easily the best I've ever had.

Lee Biars said...

I'm not sure Pei Wei vs. PF Chang's is a fair comparison:

1) PF Chang's is a full service restaurant with a large kitchen, and Pei Wei is a quick counter service restaurant with a small kitchen. As a restaurateur I can tell you that kitchen size is the single biggest determinant in terms of what you can execute effectively.

2) Pricing- PF Chang's appetizers are priced the same as Pei Wei's entrees. For a family of 4 you're looking at spending around $80-$100 at PF Chang's (before tip), while at Pei Wei you're looking at spending $50-$60. This needs to be taken into account when you're talking about food quality at one place vs. another.

I think both restaurants are good, although I will say my last few experiences at PF Chang's (multiple locations) were disappointing. And as my kid is quickly moving into toddlerhood, I have grown a new appreciation for places like Pei Wei that make it a lot easier (or even possible) to dine out.


Jenny said...

I'd appreciate it if you would delete my last comment in this thread. Thank you.