Predicting Our Future at Pei Wei

OK, I'll confess: I'm one of those gals who not only tries to get all her holiday shopping done early but also all at once. The thought of visiting department stores more than one time during the insanity of the holiday season is enough to give me hives. But I actually got my ass out of bed early one morning last weekend, determined to knock it all out before dinnertime. 

I dragged my ever-so-patient boyfriend along for the experience, and he watched as I spent the whole day flipping through racks and lamenting over color choices. By the time 7 p.m. came around, hypoglycemia was sidelining my nearly shopping

-bag-less overachiever self, and I started to morph into Super Cranky Bitch.


the hell?" I screamed at a rack of CDs. "How is it possible to have a

dozen copies of that little David Archuleta punk's Christmas CD and

none of the new Dave Matthews?" Probably realizing that the rack wasn't

about to defend itself and I was probably suffering from low blood

sugar, my lover politely suggested that we order Dave from Amazon and

grab something quick for dinner. But the thought of eating at the food

court yet again was less-than-appetizing, and my brain was so consumed

with thoughts of backorders and gift wrapping that I simply couldn't

think of a resto to suggest. 

"Let's hit Pei Wei," he bravely commented, seeing the look of surrender on my face. 

"Pay what?" I snapped back.

"Pei Wei," he said. "You've never heard of it? Chinese food."

"Ugh. I hate Chinese food," I responded. "All those gooey sauces and fried this and that. Plus every time I eat it, I end up with bad breath and I'm up half the night suffering from MSG-related hallucinations."

"Well, I've got gum for the halitosis. But hallucinations?" he asked. "We'll have to get back to that discussion later. Check out Pei Wei. I think you'll like it. It's a chain owned by P.F. Chang's, but it's the cheaper, more casual version."

I finally gave in, partially because I was curious and partly because, frankly, I was so hungry I would've eaten a bowl of foo dog stew at that point. (Chill, puppy lovers. It's just a joke.)

We walked in, and I was surprised to discover it was one of those spots where you order at the counter, plop a number on the table, and wait for your food to arrive. I didn't see the usual Chinese-dive crap on the menu but instead discovered I could order what type of protein I wanted with whatever veggies and sauce, then put that over noodles or rice. I'm a big fan of choices. The drinks came from a fountain -- woohoo! The walls were decorated with intriguing black-and-white lifestyle photos of Asian folks and such.

The place was getting pretty packed, but we commandeered our table for a good two hours, sharing delicate, crispy spring rolls filled with veggies and glass noodles and plates of sassy Mongolian chicken and tangy orange peel beef. When all that was left were ounces of dipping sauce and a few grains of rice, my guy got up and returned to the table with two wrapped fortune cookies in hand. I insisted, since he chose the cookies and assigned one to me, that he open his first. Inside, the little white rectangular paper read, "Ability will never catch up with the demand for it." We looked at each other quizzically; then he balled it up and tossed it in the duck sauce. Then I ripped open the crinkly plastic wrapper on mine and broke it open to reveal the fortune. I munched on a piece of the cookie as I handed the paper to him without first reviewing it.

"An unexpected relationship will become permanent," he read aloud. I blushed. He blushed. Then we both burst into a fit of giggles.

"Wow. I think that's the first time one of these crazy things actually makes sense," he said. Be still my beating heart.

That night, I was blessed with sweet dreams instead of monosodium glutamate-induced nightmares. And as for you, dear readers, keep in mind it may not be the type of place to impress a date, what with its stand-and-order system and inexpensive price point, but it is a fun quickie. Just be sure you know what you're getting into when you rifle through that basket of fortune cookies.

Pei Wei has locations in Plantation, Pembroke Pines, Weston, and Boca Raton. Visit peiwei.com for details.

Freelance writer Riki Altman eats everything that won't try to eat her first (with exceptions, of course) and dates younger men, older men, and older men who act like young men, along with locals, tourists, illegal aliens, and just plain aliens. Love Bites is a compilation of what happens when her dining and dating ordeals collide. Sometimes, it just ain't pretty.

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Riki Altman