Rice Box in Florence, AlabamaYes, the economy is bad. Yes, people are watching their pennies. Yes, businesses are failing every day. Yet, in my town of Florence, Alabama, a newly opened Chinese restaurant is so popular that there’s a line to get in from 11 in the morning until 2 or later in the afternoon — pretty much unheard-of around here. And that’s not even including the takeout business. Even weeks after it opened, there’s still a half-hour or so wait at lunch. But so worth it. Everybody asks, “Have you eaten at the Rice Box yet?” and the lucky ones talk dreamily of the fresh-tasting vegetables, the light and flavorful stir-fries, the innovative sushi rolls and, of course, the fried dough rolled in cinnamon and sugar known as Chinese doughnuts. (I have to limit myself to one 10-piece order a week.) Why is this place successful when so many others aren’t? I’m not sure, but here are some observations: The Rice Box has 1) good food that’s actually cooked to order in the kitchen instead of warmed-up in the microwave after being off-loaded from the freezer truck; 2) affordable prices that mean you don’t have to feel guilty or sacrificial about eating out; 3)  a knowledgeable, friendly and efficient staff that keeps the traffic flow moving without stress; and 4) unobtrusive cleaning that keeps things neat and sanitary despite the crowds. Plus, it’s in a nearly empty shopping center where rent, I’m sure, is not astronomical. The Rice Box decor is calm and serene without being cloying — the dark wood and contemporary lighting makes it seem modern and sleek — and the restaurant’s layout means diners can peek into the bustling kitchen and grill area but the noise and chaos doesn’t take over. I’m not sure exactly what the Rice Box is doing right, but it sure is doing something. Check it out at — and you’d better go ahead and get two orders of doughnuts.

5 thoughts on “Restaurants

  1. Those doughuts look yummy, and with a cup of tea – please can I have one or five?
    We have a Chinese restaurant similar to Rice Box. Its decor has a very peaceful feng shui decor. Not the mention the food is light and tasty.
    I am hoping that your new restaurant stays afloat. People always seem to come back to something good if the quality is there.
    Have a great weekend!

  2. I’m fond of Chinese restaurants, for the reasons you give, and more. Our nearest little town has a tiny one, which even had fried squid on the bar when we ate there.

    In the winter, there’s nothing better for a cold than Hot and Sour Soup, full of dark mushrooms, blocks of bean curd and hot peppers. Once, when I sought H&S soup in a distant town, the waitress gave me a tip — drink hot ginger ale for my cough.

  3. Oh gosh Cathy — we LOVE Rice Box around here!! It doesn’t help (or maybe it does?) that they’re so close to our house, and that Will often gets home from work so late that I would much rather have steamed broccoli & chicken than to COOK steamed broccoli & chicken… or that their sushi is the best around and that otherwise I would have to drive to Huntsville or Birmingham before even thinking about a sushi roll. Ohh the list goes on and on. Maybe we should write a love song about Rice Box? If it sells to every person in Florence who loves Rice Box as much as we do, well, it may just be a hit!

  4. Wife Kaye and I tried the Rice Box this evening and loved it. The food was great, service couldn’t have been better and the atmosphere was a pleasant change from the usual. We’re planning another visit next week. Thanks for turning us on to it. You find the best eateries.

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