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Noodles of the Drunk

Zen and the art of boozing in Asian restaurants.



Some evenings, you simply cannot stomach the sight of Fan rats with tattoos and iPhones. Your belly is aquiver with discontent and wanderlust — you've realized that you hate your job and that your life is on some sinister and subpar conveyor belt, not the fast track. Your exhaustion is such that if you saw a trend, you'd punch it in the face, then slouch away crying. Oh, the day-to-day sameness of it all! Where can you booze that you won't have to be sociable and the beers all have foreign names? 

Go gently, now. It's important that you don't ignore this feeling. While in its clutch, you're a danger to yourself and others. It is a public service that you stay out of Star-Lite.

What you need is the opposite of Cheers, to go where nobody knows your name. What you need is to recover your sense of novelty. That's where fried noodles in a teak bowl can help, not to mention cocktails with names such as love potion and scorpion. Because you don't normally drink — drink with a purpose, that is — in Asian restaurants, doing so is fresh and interesting. It is much like taking yourself to the movies on a rainy evening. The setting is serene. Tinny music plays. The waitress has single-mother eyes and she won't rush you.

In the inner bar at Tiki-Tiki, old navy men are downing fog cutters, talking of their ex-wives. At the bar at Mekong are lonely dudes not waiting for their takeout, not really watching the flat-screens either. Like them, you are not waiting on a friend, but for the Hans Zimmer music to kick in — cueing your heroic escape from the crumbling rubble that is your bad mood.

Cheers to that.
Ma Ma Wok
7801 W. Broad St.
You can sit at the sushi bar and chat with the chef, or slouch all by your lonesome in one of the dark, fairly private booths that offer a view of the faded parking lot. The fried noodles are as salty as ballpark peanuts and the Tsingtaos come with frosted glasses.
6004 W. Broad St.
Mekong has Richmond's most awesome beer list. On a recent Sunday afternoon, a beautiful waitress with thick eyeliner and a husky voice dishes up the Belgian draft beers. You could have made a nice, light dinner of the Anderson Valley summer solstice ale.
Amber Asian
11501 Busy St.
While enormously overrated — listed as the second-best restaurant in all of Richmond on Trip Advisor; give me a damn break — Amber Asian, with its standard and reasonably priced drink offerings, is a decent spot for a quiet after-dinner brood.



If kitsch gets you buzzy, Tiki-Tiki's flaming volcano is the perfect throwback to a time when Patterson Avenue was the end-all. Photo by Scott Elmquist.


8917 Patterson Ave.
For atmosphere, you can't beat it. Steer clear of the booths and take a seat in the sedan-size inner bar where most of the drinks are served in ceramic coconut glasses with swizzle-stick spears of cherry and pineapple (canned, naturally).

Nanking Restaurant
7408 W. Broad St.
Nanking has a sunken-in feel, as though it were under the deck of a ship. Put this down to the exposed wooden rafters in the dining room. At the bar are weary travelers who've wandered over from the Econo Lodge next door. Get them talking. Deep conversations with strangers serve a critical if obscure purpose. You know that it's true.

Thai Diner
8059 W. Broad St.
The sparkly tabletops are great for spaced-out staring; the Singha and Beer Lao can help you get there. Note that we're not talking about the too-perky Carytown location but the one in the seen-better-days Westland Shopping Center.

11361 Nuckols Road
All the frustrated Innsbrook office workers begin their lunchtime drink orders with, “I really shouldn't, but. …” Still, it's probably safe to bet they've actually been planning that order since 9 a.m. or so.

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