Craving a little heat to warm up a cold, rainy Friday, we made the short trip from downtown Toledo to Northwood to visit the area’s newest fast-casual Asian fusion restaurant, What the Fried Rice, more casually known as WTF-R. The reward for the ten minute drive was healthy food and fast service.
Keeping it fresh
Friends Li Yu and Shawn Reinhart opened WTF-R last February, but the duo developed the concept a few years earlier. Yu, a South Korean immigrant, grew up in the restaurant business. Immigrating to the United States at age 15, he worked at his family’s now-closed Fu Yi Chinese Restaurant in Holland, Ohio. Shortly after his parents retired, Yu and his wife opened Spicy Tuna Sushi Bar and Grill and then opened the popular Tea Tree Asian Bistro in Levis Commons.
Yu joined Reinhart, a friend he met at Bowsher High School, to open WTF-R. While the new eatery is different from the more formal sit-down restaurants Yu has been involved with in the past, the fast-casual restaurant maintains the same standards: fresh food, high-quality ingredients, and friendly service.
WTF-R is a far departure from Yu’s past date-night establishments that offered set menus with specialized dishes. Here, the focus is fresh, fast, and customizable fare that will please both carnivores and those on vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diets.
While WTF-R does offer a menu of suggested items— including classic Korean, Thai, Japanese and Chinese fare — the option to have fried rice or noodles “your way” is a tempting draw. Like other choose-your-own-adventure styled fast-casual restaurants, diners will find an array of ingredients, fresh and proudly displayed at the counter, as components for the step-by-step process of personalizing a dish.
For fried rice, choose white and brown grain, or chopped cauliflower for a healthier alternative.Noodles options include lo mein, skinny egg noodles, or thick udon. Proteins including basics— chicken, pork, beef, and shrimp— aseget well as a bit more exotic attractions like tofu, bacon, pork belly and squid and vegetables typical to Asian fare— broccoli, cabbage, bamboo shoots, scallions, pineapple, green peas, – are bathed in house sauces with sweet, spicy or savory selections.
Dine and dash
On our first visit, the vast selection was slightly overwhelming. Since the stripmall restaurant’s interior is small, although clean and welcoming, we found ourselves in the way of hurried diners on lunch break picking up to-go orders. We picked a few appetizers— including pork dumplings and crab rangoons— an order of Pad Thai with tofu, the spicy Firecracker special with pork and jalapeños, and udon noodles “our way” prepared with chicken and the house brown gravy. To sweeten the deal, we also ordered boba teas— one, a bland milk tea with lychee poppies, the other, a peach smoothie with mango jellies.
Despite the number of items in our order, the food, prepared surprisingly quickly, was appealing and vibrantly fresh, served in large portions. What the selections lacked in complexity was balanced by the speedy service and affordable prices promoting us to suggest, sometime soon you just gotta say WTF-R.
WTF-R, What The Fried Rice
11am-9:30pm, Monday-Thursday, and Sunday.
2509 Oregon Rd., Northwood, OH.
(in the plaza near Wales Rd.)
419-724-2370 | whatthefriedrice.com