Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese influences are the building blocks of Fire Bowl Café, which husband-and-wife team Gigi Lee and Daniel Pao opened 16 years ago.
Lee and Pao had both worked in the restaurant business for several years and decided to open an Asian eatery to serve the Austin area, where they lived at the time.
“We are foodies,” Lee said. “We always enjoy eating out, but we are also very health-conscious. We want to have good flavor yet have good ingredients.”
Operations Manager David Schaare said after successfully opening in Sunset Valley in 1999 and in Round Rock in February 2001, the owners opened a third location near the Arboretum in March 2003. They felt the area was underserved in the fast-casual restaurant market and could use another affordable option for a quick and healthy lunch and dinner, he said.
Fire Bowl Café uses all-natural chicken and beef, organic tofu, gluten-free options and vegetarian sauces to prepare its entrées and sides, Lee said.
Many menu items are based on family recipes, and some options are for the brave, she said.
“Our spicy sauces are really tongue-on-fire spicy,” Lee said, mentioning varieties such as Thai pepper, which features cilantro and spicy Thai chilies.
Visitors to the restaurant can design their own dishes by selecting noodles or rice and combining them with a la carte additions listed on the menu.
“It’s basically Asian food your way. Everything is customized,” Schaare said.
The business offers dine-in and carryout options as well as online ordering, which it added in 2014.
Lee said the company is developing a delivery system that it plans to introduce by the fall.
Schaare said the restaurant is also looking to open another location by next year, possibly in Central Austin or the Lakeline Mall area.
“We are always looking for more sites,” he said.
Beer and wine
In addition to soft drinks, Fire Bowl Café offers a variety of Asian beer options, Operations Manager David Schaare said.
Beers on the menu include Tsing Tao, Asahi, Singha, Kirin Ichiban and Devil’s Backbone.
The restaurant also offers a wine list that includes Robert Mondavi Chardonnay, Robert Mondavi Pinot Grigio, Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon and Woodbridge Merlot.
The restaurant offers online ordering and can provide catering for special events, Schaare said.
Stir fry options
Most dishes come with a choice of chicken, beef, tofu, shrimp or a combination of meats.
Pad thai: Thin rice stick noodles are mixed with green onions, yellow onions, eggs, bean sprouts, cilantro, lime and crushed peanuts ($7.50-$8.50).
Vermicelli Singapore: Rice vermicelli is served with egg, green onions, yellow onions, bean sprouts and yellow curry ($7.50-$8.50).
Thai tom kah noodle soup: Mushrooms and snap peas are incorporated into the coconut soup along with lemongrass, cilantro, chili and fresh lime and served over rice vermicelli noodles ($7.50-$8.50).
Crispy orange chicken: Chicken, snap peas and bell peppers are combined in an orange-flavored sauce and served over rice or