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Four tips for eating at ShopHouse

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas Shophouse

ShopHouse, the latest assembly line-style, fast casual restaurant from the folks behind Chipotle, has officially opened its first Chicago-based location in the Loop. Located at 24 E Jackson Boulevard, the small, downtown joint sets its sights on Asian-inspired cuisine, allowing customers to assemble rice, noodle or salad bowls, which are topped with a protein, a vegetable, a sauce and garnishes such as pickled vegetables and papaya slaw. We visited ShopHouse on its opening day and gathered some tips for first-time diners.

You can ask for extra lettuce, rice or noodles

Feeling extra hungry after a strenuous commute and a lengthy morning meeting? You can get an extra hearty meal at ShopHouse by asking for some extra noodles, rice or lettuce in your bowl without being upcharged—just ask nicely. Unfortunately, you will have to pay for any extra meat, veggies or sauces that you add to your bowl—this isn't an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Heed the menu's spice advice

You'll see cute little flames next to some items on the menu that indicate the spice level, ranging from one flame (kinda hot) to four (this mouth is on fire). We tend to ignore these warnings at most chain restaurants, but you might want to pay attention to them while building your bowl at ShopHouse. Our server repeatedly warned us about the spice level of the green beans and the spicy red curry sauce. We soon learned that she wasn't being overly cautious—the red curry sauce was much hotter than the watered down stuff you're probably used to. If you're a heat chaser, you'll love this stuff. If you have a more sensitive palate, don't be afraid to ask for a taste of any spicy menu item.

Don't be afraid to try something new

By now you probably have a regular order at Chipotle, where every dish eventually turns into a (delicious) mushy pile of beans, meat and sour cream. At ShopHouse, there's an entirely new palette of ingredients to mix up. Trying to cut back on meat? Order the (slightly spicy) organic tofu. Want something fresh? Add a seasonal veggie. Need to ward off vampires after your meal? Make sure you top it with some crispy garlic.

Stop by for a drink (or two)

Just like many Chipotle locations, ShopHouse offers a selection of bottled and draft beer to wash down your bowl. Currently, there's Half Acre Daisy Cutter on draft and bottles of Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat, Beerlao, Singha and Chang for sale. The restaurant stays open until 10pm each night, so if you need a beer (and maybe some spring rolls) before you board the train home, it's a good option. There's also no shame in sitting in a corner and sipping a midday beer.