About two years ago, the popular downtown noodle shop Soba closed its doors. There were rumors that the place would reopen again, sometime.
And then, with little fanfare, that "sometime" arrived earlier this summer as Soba re-opened in a downtown storefront a few doors down and across the street from its previous location, the space is as narrow and long as two box cars; a low-key, warm atmosphere with exposed brick walls and a high ceiling painted with clouds and blue skies, carrying through the animation that abounds on the walls. The recently rebooted noodle shop employs Japanese kitsch to create a lighthearted and family-friendly space. At the entrance is a large cutout of a bus painted with the popular cartoon character Totoro that serves as a divider between the counter and the dining area, and begs for photos taken with heads poking out the "bus" windows. One of our group quipped that the restaurant seems like the perfect place that families should hit up before or after visiting the quippy downtown toy store Wabi Sabi.
The menu is nearly as playful, including a variety of Asian noodle dishes, rice bowls, and salads. The dishes are simple and straightforward, appealing to diners familiar with the basic (American) staples of Thai, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine. This is not precise Asian food from a specific country or cuisine, but instead middle-of-the-road lunchtime fare with a general catch-all sensibility. The pad Thai is minimalist, with just tofu, broccoli, and a garnish of green onion atop a bed of lightly seasoned rice noodles, and the popular Singapore noodles were nothing like what I ate when I lived in Singapore, but tasty and satisfying none-the-less, spicy rich flavors tinged with sharp green onions that, all told, got a few beads of sweat going.
The generous servings made for a meal that could easily stretch to two (or, more like 1.5), giving an added boost to already reasonable prices. Service wasn't lickety-split, and while geared as a downtown lunch spot, the leisurely service didn't quite fit that bill. Even so, while we were not blown away, Soba provides a welcome alternative to sandwiches, burgers, and pizza for the downtown lunchtime crowd, and a fun option for families. Bonus: There's a bar in the back for grown-up times.
932 NW Bond St.
Monday-Saturday 11 am-9 pm
Bar open till midnight Sunday-Thursday, till 1 am Friday & Saturday