Chowbus: You can now get traditional Chinese food without stepping off campus

Chef’s Special Roast Duck from Spicy Spirit

Chowbus is a food delivery service app that capitalizes on one profound insight: “nobody eats orange chicken in China.”

This authentic Asian food ordering platform is a Chicago-based startup that launched in 2016. It partners with top Chinatown restaurants to deliver food to different places in Chicago, Northwestern included.


Each meal comes as a bento box with a main dish, a side veggie, rice and often dim sum. The box costs somewhere between $8 and $11, but the most important part is that delivery is only $1.

Whenever I use Grubhub, UberEATS or any other food delivery app, I sort my search results by delivery fee. Nothing stops me faster in my tracks than an outrageous delivery charge. Chowbus solves this pain point.

When my friend Kaitlyn first told me about it over winter break, I was astounded. How am I just hearing about this now?

It turns out that at Northwestern, news about Chowbus travels primarily through word of mouth, and has so far stayed within the international student community. At long last, the time had come for me to be let in on the secret, and I am so genuinely excited to share it with you all now.

I’ve been using the app for the past few weeks, and I’ve fallen head over heels. For the first time in so long, I’ve been able to have some of my favorite meals that taste like they’ve come straight out of a Chinese restaurant, my kitchen at home and even China.

Every weekday, the app offers about a dozen entrée options from local Asian restaurants, as well as some drink and dessert options. While the menu and restaurant rotates daily, the constant is delicious, authentic food.

I spoke with co-founders Linxin Wen and Suyu Zhang about their reasons for starting Chowbus.

They understood that delivery fees for Chinese restaurants in Chicago were often absurdly high, but more importantly, they wanted to introduce their American friends to traditional Chinese cuisine.

“There’s a huge gap between American people and authentic Asian food,” Wen said.

Chowbus works with 23 local businesses, many of which are in Chinatown. It delivers meals from some of my personal favorites, like Minghin. Wen and Zhang look for authentic restaurants rated highly on Yelp or recommended by local foodies. While Chinese food is their focus and specialty, they also work with Strings Ramen, a local Japanese establishment and Korean restaurants such as Ahjoomah’s Apron and Do Eat.

While most the app’s customers are international students or Chinese people who work downtown, Chowbus has plans of increasing its exposure to Americans. Beyond delivering to many areas in Chicago such as UChicago and The Art Institute, it also caters to regions such as Northwestern and UIUC. For members of the Northwestern community, Chowbus only operates for lunch, but that’s just for the time being.

That sounds really cool. How do I move forward from here?

The process is very simple and straightforward. Scroll through the pictures in the app, select your meal options and then head to check out. Enter your payment information (and use my promo code ‘catthecritic‘!) and you’re done!

You can track your order in the app, and you’ll receive a text five minutes before the food is delivered. The app also provides the car model and color of the delivery app for easy identification.

As long as you place your lunch order before 10:30 am, you can expect your meal to be delivered to a convenient location near you! Chowbus delivers to dozens of different locations in Evanston, including Kellogg, Tech, Elder, Allison and Medill, as well as many off-campus locations like E2 and Evanston Place.

Coming up:

Favorite meals from Chowbus-supported restaurants, why this is a gamechanger for Northwestern students and more!

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