Going out on another culinary adventure, my good friend Kenzie and I decided to try some southeast-Asian barbecue and hit up Tot Restaurant downtown. “Tot” is a play on the Vietnamese word for “good.”
Although I was hesitant at first, Tot turned out to be pretty delicious. I don’t typically eat ethnic cuisine because I usually have no idea what I’m ordering and I’m always terrified I’m going to unintentionally order something spicy.
That wasn’t an issue here though, in fact one of the things I liked about Tot was they either implied or explained what would be on your plate before you committed to it.
Tot has a decent selection of food, though the menu isn’t overwhelming with options. For each category (mains, salads, soups, Bánh Mì and snacks) there are four to five choices. Vegetarian options are also available for five of the dishes. The food at Tot’s is often made using local ingredients. The bread they use is baked especially for the restaurant at a local bakery and all food is made from scratch.
Their main dishes are popular, including the BBQ ribs (which Kenzie and I both ordered), the BBQ brisket and the half hen. The cashier said the recent shift to colder weather has led to a rise in popularity of their soups, particularly the mushroom broth and spinach dumpling soup and the chicken noodle soup.
Our BBQ ribs were spicy, but not overpowering or really hot. Neither one of us had ever had southeast-Asian BBQ ribs before, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect.
They weren’t served dripping with sauce, which was nice because that meant less mess while trying to eat. The ribs (as all mains unless otherwise requested) were served over rice and pickled vegetables. The pickled cauliflower was interesting and the food all worked together really well. There was enough that I was able to bring a to-go container home and make another entire meal with the food.
Kenzie just had water, but I tried the Thai Ice Tea. It was a bit different than what I was expecting, but I liked it a lot. Very creamy and flavorful, I’d definitely order it again.
The atmosphere of the restaurant was very relaxed, which was interesting considering the fancier nature of the food. You order at the counter and food is brought out quickly, and when finished you bus your own dishes.
During the meal Kenzie and I commented on the decor of the restaurant, which was pretty interesting. It is covered with blue and tan spanning the walls and ceiling, and cork board on the backs of the chairs. We also particularly liked the fish bowl on the wall (with an actual fish inside of it) labeled “sushi.”
The price range is relatively reasonable considering how much food is provided, though it may not be the best for a college student’s budget. The snacks are as low as $2-3 while the mains range from $9-13. Salads, soups and Bánh Mì (which are sub sandwiches topped with various vegetables) fall in between those ranges.
Tot is in kind of an odd location, at 310 Oak Street downtown. It wasn’t too tricky to find, but you have to be looking for it and it’s probably not a place a student would stumble upon accidentally.
Tot is open from 11:30-8:00 Monday through Saturday.