HEA Cafe quick-lunch

HEA CafeHEA Cafe always appears busy before, during, and after the lunch-hour and, having tried it today for the first time, I now understand why. I also understand why the diners seen entering and exiting have always appeared to be mostly men. HEA Cafe suits big appetites. The few women there today departed with food packaged for later consumption. Except for the egg rolls and spring rolls (two to an order) portions are large!

The lemonade was superior. The menu describes it as fresh squeezed and that’s how it tasted. I loved the egg rolls and I know that a Faithful Dining Companion was very pleased by the shrimp in the spring rolls. Each of those appetizers came with its own tasty dipping sauce. I attended only to my soup, which would comfortably have fed six, I believe. The menu called it “Hu Tieu” and it was a beautiful, not too salty, chicken broth filled with rice noodles and generous and beautifully trimmed slices of white-meat chicken. Also in the broth were ribbons of some sort of dark green in the cabbage family, I think, plus cilantro and scallion rings. Brought on the side to be added at will were more cilantro, lime, bean sprouts, and rings of jalapeno. This entree may be ordered with shrimp, tofu, vegetables, or a combination of everything if chicken alone doesn’t suit. This is such a bargain, at $6.95. I did not sample the sweet and sour chicken, also a very large portion, but its delicious qualities were commended.

There appear to be a few items with a Thai flavor, along with our old friends kung pao and General Tso, but this is mostly a Vietnamese menu: banh mi, pho, bun, and plenty more. HEA Cafe is very clean and the food comes to the table fast. I saw two kinds of chopsticks (short and longer), two kinds of chile sauce, as well as a couple of other bottled condiments, plus salt and pepper and sugar, forks, self-serve paper napkins, Chinese-restaurant soup spoons, and more, all available from dispensers right at the table. I heard only conversation, not recorded sound of any kind.

If there’s a Web presence for HEA Cafe, I didn’t find it. The sign visible on the door in the accompanying photo says that there’s free WiFi. The menu says that HEA Cafe is open daily from 10 am to 9 pm. Look for it at 500 East Ben White, Suite D-200 (near that big Wal-Mart and not far east of South Congress) (telno 804-2310; faxno 804-2309).

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