Who likes to go grocery shopping when they’re hungry? Me! I do! So much fun right? But oh so dangerous. While hungry, the most ridiculous things get placed in the shopping cart. Items one would never buy on a full stomach happily bounce around the metal (or plastic) cage, waiting to see what horribly unhealthy or unnecessary box will next accompany them.

A few poor choices here and there aside, shopping when you’re hungry supercharges the food fantasizing portion of your brain. I probably spend more time thinking about food than any other subject (yes, even that subject). the anticipation of eating grows to fruition in your mind as well as your stomach.  The more you think about it, conjecture as to its texture, aroma, and flavor; the more satisfied you’ll be when you finally get to eat. Hunger is 99% mental baby, and I’m food crazy!

So when I first heard about a restaurant called Chow Baby! in Atlanta, Georgia, I wasn’t simply intrigued, I transformed into a little fat girl – my inner child, if you will. Now, before you go getting any ideas about how I generalize or categorize people by gender, weight, or this that and the other, picture this:

A hot summer day, a day not unlike today, a little girl plays on the front porch of her house. She’s a little plump, but not too big, like a ripe tomato – firm, bright, and just right.

The sun influences the little girl’s hair towards its favorite color during the summer time, and unfortunately, does the same to her skin.

“Put on your sunscreen!” Mom always says. It smells bad, like, real bad, but mom can’t be wrong right?

The girl rests back on her arms and looks up at the sky. Not a cloud. She squints and counts how long she can stare at the sun before her eyeballs explode. At least four seconds; the best answer obtained while retaining vision.

Eventually, squinting turns into closing and resting back turns into lying down. Sprawled out on the deck, she falls asleep under cover of nothing but the sun.

Her clothes turn a few shades darker in a few choice locations, mainly under the arms, and begin to stick to her skin. Birds chirp, trucks pass by, and Mr. Eli, her next door neighbor, mows his lawn (he’s retired and wears bifocals). She sleeps through it all.

The daily newspaper bounces off her forehead…still, nothing. The delivery boy raises his hands to the sky in triumph as he rides away on his blue Schwinn – he’s a good shot.

Then, like a cat who hears the whir of the can opener, her ears twitch and perk just before her eyes shoot open – wide and awake in less than a second. The music playing in her ears sounds like heaven on earth.

“MOM! ICE CREAM!” she yells with an uncontrollable enthusiasm, pure as vanilla.

Mom doesn’t argue when she sees the gleeful lust in her daughter’s eyes. How can one deny such passion?

The little girl grabs the change from her mother and careens back outside only to see the ice cream truck roll over the hill at the end of the street, heading away from her house.

As the source of her ultimate happiness drives off into the horizon, heartbreak settles into her little chest. But she does not accept defeat so easily.

Her short legs rotate like a combine as she dashes down the street. A stitch cuts across her abdomen and nearly causes her to buckle over, but she presses on. Surely he must see her by now, waving her arms and jumping high in the air every other step.

“Mister!” she tries to yell with authority, but it comes out like the gasp of an emptying balloon.

Spots begin to appear across her vision. Her head swims through the air like whipped cream; light, fluffy, and devoid of all substance. She collapses. Tears begin to swell up within her, carried along by a rapid rate of hyperventilation. But before they can reach fruition, a long shadow looms over her.

“Sorry I didn’t see you there,” the ice cream man says. He’s young, early twenties, home from school for the summer. The truck is his uncle’s, who let him borrow it so he could travel overseas. Win, win.

“How about a free cone, on the house?” he asks, rhetorically, as he hands her a waffle cone overflowing with strawberry ice cream.

The girl tries to thank him, wants to thank him, wants to kiss him and have his babies, but a combination of heavy breathing, surprise, and ecstatic jubilation prevents anything other than a grand smile. The boy returns it in kind and heads back to his ice cream dispensing truck of joy.

As soon as the ice cream reaches her lips, all the pain and suffering she ever knew disappears into thin air. What few worries occupy her mind, like what to put on her next birthday list, or if Johnny will push her into the pool again (he will), or if she’ll ever get a puppy (she won’t); they all suddenly became inconsequential. The only thing that matters in the whole entire world rests in the palms of her hands.

She attacks it from the top, she attacks it from the sides, she nibbles on the cone here and a little bit there. She bites the bottom of the cone and sucks the sweetness inside-out of the waffle and outside-in to her stomach.

Ice cream, oh ice cream. A science, an art, a way of life.

Then, the world ends. The ice cream falls out of the cone and hits the hot pavement with a tiny ‘plop’. Shock. Disbelief. Pain. Horror. Torment. Defeat. Her tears join the rapidly melting ice cream on the sidewalk. The pool they create soon grows to two parts tears to one part ice cream.

A declaration of “I wish I was never born!” rings loud and clear through the air.

That’s me. I get so excited about food, I invest all of my being into it, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It has the ability to excite me beyond belief (and I’m not normally excitable), but it also has the ability to make me cry and wish I was never born.

I’ve dropped food on the floor (that I hadn’t swept in a while) that I’d been painstakingly preparing. It was an emotional experience to say the least. On the other hand, I love to chop really strong onions. Go figure.

But I digress. Long story short (too late!), Chow Baby! is a create your own stir-fry restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia. You get two bowls, the first of which you fill with your favorite rice, noodles, and all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. The second, you fill with various meats, fish, and even tofu. They also have a generous selection of sauces and spices to top over either bowl before you hand it over to the chefs who stir fry your very own creation right then and there.

Nobody tells you what to put in your bowl, nobody tells you how much, nobody tells you that you can’t combine a ginger lime basil sauce with a Thai barbecue sauce; it’s all up to you (and the confines of the porcelain). That kind of control and freedom makes Chow Baby! a unique experience worth waiting in line for, like a kid in a candy store with a no limit credit card, except much healthier.

The moment they bring out your stir fry, the ‘shopping’, anticipation, and quality food itself culminates into an incredibly exciting meal.

At Chow Baby!, you live and die by what you create. There is no blaming the chef at Chow Baby!, there is no complaining about the menu options at Chow Baby!, there exists only your imagination, creativity, and eating the ensuing consequences at Chow Baby!.

Oh, and you can go up for seconds.

I did.

Chow Baby! has two locations:

1016 Howell Mill Road Suite A
Atlanta, Georgia 30318
One Galleria Pkwy Suite 1B1
Atlanta, Georgia 30339

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