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Friday, September 27, 2013

First Look: Corner 17 Tempts the Loop with Bubble Tea, Ices and Fresh Noodles

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 7:00 AM

       Handmade noodle soup with beef and bok choy. | Mabel Suen
  •        Handmade noodle soup with beef and bok choy. | Mabel Suen

In August, Gut Check reported on the opening of Corner 17 (6623 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-727-2402), a new bubble tea and handmade noodle shop in the Delmar Loop. Co-owner Guang Zhao says she aims to offer authentic Chinese cuisine in a quick-service setting that differs from the Americanized version most of us know all too well. During its first week in business -- timed perfectly with the start of the fall semester for local colleges -- we wandered down the street from our offices to watch as international students and curious passersby poured in by the dozens to get a taste. And then we joined them.

See also: Corner 17 Bubble Tea Now Open in the Loop

At Corner 17 diners can order drinks to-go at the counter, or choose a numbered table or stool to dine-in. Beneath a large chalkboard displaying a variety of milk tea, smoothie, slush and fresh juice flavors, Zhao and staff load alchemy-level concoctions into the kitchen contraptions.

A blender whirs together ice with syrups or sweetened red bean; a juicer extracts the liquid from a selection of fresh-cut fruits and veggies including ripe red watermelon; and what appears to be some sort of modern-day torture device impales blocks of flavored ice onto spikes and shaves it down into delicate sheets of a cold, creamy and cloudlike dessert to be gobbled up by the spoonful.

       Corner 17 milk tea. | Mabel Suen
  •        Corner 17 milk tea. | Mabel Suen

First-time patrons unsure of where to begin ought to opt for the house standard Corner 17 milk tea, a combination of sweetened black tea mixed with a light-handed pour of milk and a spoonful of flavoring. The ingredients are loaded into a plastic jug, shaken vigorously until perfectly chilled in a special machine and poured over lightly sweetened spheres of tapioca (is that honey we taste? brown sugar?). It's best enjoyed through an oversized straw.

Beside the drink counter, fresh, hand-pulled noodles get made to order all day. A cook in a floppy chef hat can be seen through a steamy window, twisting and flipping dough every which way before dunking the strands into boiling hot water to bring them to life. The noodles can be ordered in a bowl of piping hot broth topped with bok choy and a choice of protein, or diners can opt for them pan-fried.

See also: First Look: Blueprint Coffee in the Loop

       Co-owner Guang Zhao behind the counter. | Mabel Suen
  •        Co-owner Guang Zhao behind the counter. | Mabel Suen

Additional menu options include fried rice and a small selection of fried appetizers including "salty crispy chicken" and "fried vegetable," a fritter made up of finely shredded veggie sticks.

If you're wondering about the name and the somewhat ambiguous logo for Corner 17 (well, we did), 17 is simply the sum of each digit in the business' street address. And that mascot on its signage? It's a star fruit.

"It has a special meaning for us and is kind of a long story," says Zhao, alluding to a visit with a fortune teller. "The star fruit is small but sweet, and that's why we use it as our logo."

Works for us (we tend to enjoy those kinds of things). Corner 17's current hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday through Saturday from noon to midnight and Sunday from noon to 11 p.m. Follow Corner 17 via its Facebook page.

Click through for more photos!

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