Friday Restaurant Review: Noodles and Company
This week, we went to Noodles on Rock Road in Wichita. This is a new restaurant in town, but it isn’t a new restaurant for us: it’s a chain, a franchise. We’ve been to the one in downtown Portland, so we were experienced enough to breeze through the line (the people in front of us were in awe of the menu and let us go ahead as they stared and pondered and drooled so much that they became embarrassed that they were holding up the line; I made a point as I accepted their offer of cutting in line to smugly tell them that we had been to the Noodles in Portland).
The place was hoppin. Lots of different types of people had come to slurp up the noodles. It seemed to be quite the trendy thing to do. I understood as I looked around at all the diners that this restaurant chain was pretty successful at appealing to everybody. We ate in the same room with hipster 20 somethings, jocks fresh from some sweaty ball game, families with tots in tow, and a bunch of businessmen in shirtsleeves. The concept is this: you can get basically any noodle dish you want from a selection of the world’s great noodle dishes. If you want Spaghetti and Meatballs, they’ve got it. If you want a Pesto Cavatappi topped with a chicken breast, they’ve got that. If your kid wants Mac and Cheese piled with extra cheese, they’ve got that, too. They let you select the type of “protein” you want and almost everything comes first as a vegetarian dish that you have to pay extra to turn into a meat-laden perversion. I had Pad Thai with Tofu (you can get tofu as one of the “proteins”) and Suzanne had Penne with Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Cream Sauce (with no additional protein). She also got a Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Walnuts and Feta topped with a Balsamic Vinaigrette. These are pretty fancy dishes for Wichita—and getting them at the same place was fun. And even though it was cheap, it didn’t seem like fast food. The meal had that “real food” quality to it that you don’t usually get at a fast-food joint. All-in-all, we were satisfied and impressed. It’s not fancy (aside from the trendy-fast-food thing that’s the same basic vibe that makes a Chipotle seem like a swingin scene), but it’s tasty and cool. We had fun and felt like we’d eaten well. My only complaint was that the tofu wasn’t as good as it was in Portland. You could tell that the guy in the kitchen didn’t really know his way around a block of bean curd. The stuff I had in Portland was REALLY good. Memorable, even. Whoever the cook in Portland was, he or she knew what to do with tofu, knew what tofu was, knew what tofu should be. The Noodles in Portland was downtown, in the heart of the action, next to a Sushi joint that was too expensive for us to eat at. The Noodles in Wichita is next door to Herb Snow and Son’s Maytag Dealership. Few cooks around here really grok tofu. Oh well. It’s a small complaint.
Later, for our dinner at home, I made Swiss Cheese and Roasted Red-Pepper Quesadillas.