Owner, Udon the stranger

With its semicircular wooden takeout window, Pat Tharachai's new udon place in Wallingford resembles the cute mouse-holes in old Tom and Jerry cartoons. It is among the tiniest places to eat in town, and perhaps the only one with no official name (though the plastic bunting-style signage does say "Udon"). Folding chairs are lined up outside next to a planter full of Pat's recently sprouted bulbs. Originally from Bangkok, Pat moved to LA in the '80s and started a Thai restaurant. Pat's lived in the neighborhood for 13 years; when he saw the miniature space for rent on 45th and Stone Way, he was inspired. Originally, he sold panini, but he switched to udon in autumn when customers began asking for soup.

Pat's favorite is the grilled chicken udon, but I opted for tofu vegetable. Crisp basil and tomatoes complemented the soup's dark, sweet sauce and soft noodles. I cracked open my fortune cookie (whose fortune read, boringly, "You are sensitive to everything around you") while watching a man pick up a large order of beef udon. Pat smiled pretty much the entire time I was there, even though I had come by unannounced (his place, open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, has no phone number or website). We talked about the bizarre faces people sometimes make when having their pictures taken, and he said: "Like Miley Cyrus sticking her tongue out. I watched that on YouTube this morning. I don't judge her. She was just nervous!" recommended