Monday, May 9, 2011

First Bite: Noodles & Co.

Posted By on Mon, May 9, 2011 at 5:31 AM

Wisconsin Mac and Cheese, pad Thai, and Indonesian Peanut Saute from Noodles & Co.
  • Wisconsin Mac and Cheese, pad Thai and Indonesian Peanut Saute from Noodles & Co.
Bites reported a few weeks ago that Noodles & Co. was opening in Green Hills (in the former Baja Fresh spot near the mall). Noodles of every variety capture my appetite, but I let a few weeks pass for the staff to smooth out the rough spots before visiting. It was tough to wait.

Noodles & Co.'s menu is in three geographico-culinary divisions: American, Mediterranean and Asian. American is of course topped by mac and cheese, but also includes spaghetti and meatballs, which I might have put in Mediterranean, and Mushroom Stroganoff, which is, um, Russian. Both are American favorites, though, and thoroughly Americanized and assimilated at this point. Buttered noodles, chicken noodle soup and Caesar salad round out the American offerings.

The Asian section encompasses Japanese Pan Noodles, Bangkok Curry, Indonesian Peanut Saute, Thai Curry Soup, pad Thai, and Chinese Chop Salad.

Mediterranean choices are penne rosa, pesto cavatappi, pasta fresca, Whole-Grain Tuscan Linguine (extra points for offering whole grain!) tomato basil bisque and the Med Salad.

All this to say: Noodle lovers will have ample choices. Eventually I settled on pad Thai, Indonesian Peanut Saute and Wisconsin Mac and Cheese.

The mac and cheese does exactly what it says on the tin, bless it, except that there's a touch of half-and-half or cream blended with the cheesified noodles. Kid-pleasin' for sure, and adults were smitten, too.

We opted to add chicken to the Indonesian peanut noodles — all bowls come meatless, and you can select a protein (chicken, beef, shrimp, meatballs or tofu) for a couple bucks extra. Broccoli, bean sprouts and carrots make it virtuous, and red pepper makes it hot. And I mean hot: It's the only menu selection marked with two hot peppers. I expected it hot, and it delivered.

Pad Thai offers rice noodles with a little scrambled egg, sweet chili sauce, peanuts, sprouts and cilantro. Pad Thai aficionados may find it's not the masterpiece available from Smiling Elephant, but it's absolutely satisfactory, even without adding shrimp.

A big bowl of anything is $5.25 and a small bowl is $4.25, and it's plenty of food for the average person. In spite of the hand-wringing over the arrival of another chain, Noodles & Co. offered competently conceived food, executed right at a price you don't expect in Green Hills.

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