Bowls are big business. Once reserved for mainly pasta, soup and cereal, they’ve pushed the plate aside to become a most valuable player at mealtime.
The Wall Street Journal made note of the trend toward bowl-icious eating, declaring “bowls are the new plates” in a story earlier this year. You could spend hours scrolling through photos of bowl food on Pinterest, where meals in bowls are giving Mason jar meals a run. There are smoothie breakfast bowls, quinoa lunch bowls, roasted winter vegetable bowls, noodle bowls, superfood bowls, and on and on.
Bowls are also gaining favor on restaurant menus. Grain bowls (brown rice topped with steamed kale and other veggies) and Buddha bowls (quinoa topped with cabbage, carrots, zucchini, raw sauerkraut and avocado) have long been customer favorites at LoFo, on Walton Street, which is closed until spring for remodeling.
Bowls are the basis of everything on the menu at Core Greens, Grains and Bone Broth in North Syracuse. Fast-casual chain Panera Bread offers several broth bowls. And Central New York newcomer Mighty Taco gets in on the bowl action with its “Bowlitos,” a.k.a. burrito bowls.
Bowls are essentially one-dish meals that combine grains or starch (brown rice, quinoa, farro, rice noodles, pasta), greens and other vegetables, and meats and other proteins. Sometimes these ingredients are added to broth or piled on a base of grains or greens. Grain and green bowls are usually dressed lightly with a sauce or vinaigrette.
For people who don’t like their foods to touch, bowls might not be the best choice. The multiple elements mingle to create a marriage of flavors and textures — and allow you to get all your food groups in the same place.
Although we haven’t yet sampled Mighty Taco’s bowlitos, here are some other bowls we’ve enjoyed on our food travels in Central New York.
Breakfast Bowl: Cold cereal in a bowl? That doesn’t cut it on a blustery, winter day. From a breakfast menu offering traditional fare like eggs, omelets, pancakes, French toast, corned beef hash and breakfast sandwiches, the Valley Inn’s breakfast bowl calls out to those in the mood for a comforting way to start the day.
Valley Inn owner Jenn Valenti says the breakfast bowl ($7) started out as a special but proved to be so popular she added it to the regular menu. The bowl is built on a bed of tender home fries and includes scrambled eggs, crumbled sausage and bacon, melted cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.
Bowls are also offered as an occasional lunch special: Think mashed potatoes topped with corn, breaded and diced chicken cutlet and a pour of rich gravy. “The bowls are fun,” Valenti says.
The Valley Inn is located at 2574 Cherry Valley Turnpike (Route 20), Marcellus. Call 673-7448 or visit facebook.com/valleyinnrt20.
Lunch/Supper Bowls: Everything comes in a bowl at Core Greens, Grains and Bone Broth, from slow-simmered bone (and vegetable) broths loaded with your choice of vegetables and grains to greens and grains bowls accessorized with whatever healthy ingredients you like.
Favorites so far include the spicy ginger steak and rice noodle bowl with veggies (and bone broth) and the spicy chicken and ancient grains bowl, which is built around a scoop of warm quinoa and farro, plus layers of vegetables, chicken and a refreshing lime cilantro jalapeño dressing. Prices start at about $6. Next time, I’m due for a greens bowl.
Core is at 7265 Buckley Road, North Syracuse, next to Chuck Hafner’s. Call 299-4451 or visit eatatcore.com.
Pho: Steaming bowls of broth and noodles are a mainstay of Asian cuisine. Vietnamese pho (pronounced “fuh”), a flavorful, spice-scented, beef-based broth, can be ordered with meatballs, steak and brisket, or more exotic ingredients like tripe and tendon.
New Century Vietnamese Restaurant’s No. 16 tai nam pho ($8.95) features slow-cooked beef broth plus ample quantities of steak, brisket and thin rice noodles. Garnishes arrive on a separate plate and include lime wedges, sliced habanero pepper, a tangle of bean sprouts and sprigs of basil to sprinkle on top of the soup. Optional condiments include spicy sriracha sauce and a lightly sweet hoisin-style sauce. Warning: The pepper rings pack heat!
Pho can be a sloppy affair. Wear your napkin, keep a couple more napkins handy and dive into the bowl with spoon in one hand and chopsticks in the other. Slurping is unavoidable.
New Century is at 518 Kirkpatrick St., on the corner of Carbon Street. Call 410-9999 or visit newcenturyviet.com.
Broth Bowls: Tired of the broccoli cheddar or vegetarian black bean soup? Panera Bread calls its broth bowls “filling bowls of global flavors.” What they are is loaded soups. Some of them are even healthy.
The Lentil Quinoa Bowl with Chicken, for example, features sliced roasted chicken, quinoa and brown rice, lentils, tomato sofrito and fresh kale and spinach in a savory, mildly spicy broth, topped with a lemon wheel. A vegetarian version includes a cage-free egg instead of chicken.
Panera has multiple locations in Central New York. Visit panerabread.com.
Bowlitos: Not in the mood for a taco, burrito or Buffito (Buffalo-style chicken in a tortilla)? Hold the tortilla and grab a spoon. Buffalo-based Mighty Taco, with a just-opened outpost in Cicero, also offers “bowlitos”: compact containers holding seasoned rice on the bottom, seasoned meat (or vegetarian option) in the middle and gooey nacho cheese on the top.
Mighty Taco is at 911 N. Main St., Cicero. Call 214-5600 or visit mightytaco.com.