Buddha’s Belly:

BuddhaFamilies, students can fill up fast at Buddha’s Belly near Western Michigan University’s campus.  KALAMAZOO — As the family approached Buddha’s Belly, daughter Ava, 12, said, “This looks like a McDonald’s sort of thing.”

Yes, there’s a drive-through. And inside Buddha’s Belly, you can get food quickly from a buffet spread. Everything is served in to-go containers.

No, Buddha’s Belly is not a chain and they will cook things fresh for you — many things not available on the buffet, including sushi, fried shrimp and Young Chow Fried Rice (shrimp, barbecue pork, peas, carrots and onions tossed in a wok with rice and no soy sauce).

The Young Chow is good because, without soy sauce, you can taste all of the flavors in the stir fry.

Like any other restaurant, we didn’t know what was good or what to get, and went with familiar items. Daughter Lena ordered Pad Tai, a family favorite. This version was tasty and filling.

I had the Thai Spicy Wings ($4.95) to myself since no one else wanted spicy food. Ava complained about my smacking and chomping — I tore through those sweet and hot chicken wings like a heathen.

“Uh, sorry,” I said while licking my fingers.

My companion got one of the meal deals for $6.95 that offers one appetizer, one side dish and one entree. She got Buddha’s Delight, a chicken stir-fry with vegetables, steamed rice and an egg roll. She shared that with Ava, and the four of us stepped out of the restaurant after paying $32.60.

One the next visit, I asked more questions and could pinpoint some of the restaurant’s best selections.

The daily special Thai Fried Rice ($11.95) is a new favorite. It is made with fresh sliced pineapple.

That sweetness and juiciness combined with the spicy flavor of the rice was addictive. It was enough for two people.

The Shrimp Tempura was also notable. Cooks take a bamboo roller used to make sushi and roll the shrimp long and thin. Once deep-fried with a tempura coating, the shrimp is light, crisp and great for munching on with friends.

The kitchen also takes great pride in making the sushi.

A customer favorite is the Dragon Roll, $10.95, enough for two people.

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