The Place: Pei Wei Asian Diner; 8511 Cooper Creek Blvd., Sarasota; (941) 359-8570.
The Fare: This fast food offshoot of the P.F. Chang’s China Bistro chain offers various rice and noodle bowls and just short of a dozen other familiar dishes hailing from Thailand, China and Korea in a breezy, casual atmosphere.
The Drill: The first thing you see as you enter is three illuminated boards listing dishes to be ordered at a counter before you sit down. You’ll just about have time to unfold your paper napkin before a cheerful server arrives with the food. A handful of beers and wines by the glass are available.
The Bottom Line: You’ll get the most bang for your buck at Pei Wei if you think of it primarily as a noodle shop. Ordering a dish familiar from P.F. Chang’s menu could be disappointing, but the noodles are reliable. That board offers two rice bowls and four noodle bowls, all priced at $6.95 with your choice of chicken, beef or veggies plus tofu; add shrimp for an additional dollar.
The Dan Dan Noodles with minced chicken in a chile garlic seared soy sauce over egg noodles garnished with fresh cucumber strips and scallions are my favorite, but another good bet would be the Blazing Thai Noodles, featuring your choice of meat or veggies in a black pepper sauce over rice noodles. Start with tasty, crispy spring rolls at $3.95 for two or $6.95 for six, and you have an agreeable lunch in a hurry.