Friday, October 3, 2008

Noodles and Company

Restaurant: Noodles & Company
Address: 203 South 72nd Street - 72nd and Dodge, in the minimall with Chipotle and Gamestop
Website: (Warning, flash)
Genres: Pasta. And that's about it.
Check Constraints: Short order.
Chain: National. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Indonesian Peanut Saute, Large ($5.25)
    • + Chicken ($2.00)
  • Fountain Drink ($1.35)
  • Cucumber/Tomato Salad ($2.50)
  • 2 Flatbread ($1.50)
Noodles and Company is a national chain, centered mostly in the Midwest. Back in the days when we used to go to Buffalo Wild Wings a lot, Noodles and Company was the restaurant we went to when we needed a break from breaded chicken. When work piled up again, we needed a quick destination that would still serve as a respite from beating our collective heads against unworking code - Noodles and Company definitely fits the bill.

It's a short-order joint, so once you place your order at the counter you get a little number to take back to your table. You won't be waiting long, however - I don't think we've ever waited longer than 15 minutes for food here, even if it was packed to the gills. One of the advantages to having the primary ingredient in most of your dishes pre-cooked, I suppose. But as usual, I ramble on about things of secondary importance when I should be talking about the food.

I have eaten many a dish here, and I don't think I've come across a single one that's bad. The Indonesian peanut saute is a personal favorite of mine, not the least because it has a decent spicy kick and some excellent peanut flavor; it's not equivalent to good Thai, but it'll hold off the cravings for a week or so. I usually prefer the asian-style dishes here with added tofu, but I went with chicken this week for a change of pace. If the spice or flavor doesn't quite meet your expectations, they have sriracha on all the tables (it is especially good on the Japanese pan noodles).

The tomato/cucumber salad is practically a must-have for me. It plays a little loose with the most common definition of salad, since it is essentially a plate of nothing but cucumber, tomato, and red onion dressed in what I think is rice wine vinegar, a little oil, and some spices. The goodness of this dish varies proportionally to the ability of the restaurant to secure good tomatoes, so I have occasionally been burned by that. Still, the odds are in your favor, and it's a good pairing with most of the pasta dishes they serve. The flatbread (or the rolls, they're both $0.75 each) is also a must-have for me, since it helps make sure I get the last bits of every dish here.

I can honestly say I've never felt sorry to have eaten a meal here. It is an excellent speedy destination, if you can find parking in the hideously-designed minimall they have there. Even if you're in an extreme rush, their takeout is fast and just as good, as I'm sure ND will attest.

  • Macaroni and Cheese, Large ($5.25)
  • Buttered Noodles, Small ($2.50?)
I had to work through lunch this time around, so I got them to grab me some noodles as they were leaving. My ability to eat at Noodles & Company is extremely limited. If you are allergic to mushrooms, about half their menu is off limits, and my inability to stomach whole bits of tomato wipes out much of the rest. Luckily, what's left of the menu is absolutely outstanding.

EDIT: New information from a commenter indicates that this is incorrect, and any ingredient can be left out of Noodles and Company sauces. This is doubleplusgood.

Their takeout dishes are sturdy plastic with sealing lids, so you can pretty much guarantee that your takeout's gonna get to you intact. They cook their takeout noodles a bit less done than al-dente, so by the time they got to me, they were just done enough, and could've taken a couple minutes longer and still not been mushy. If you're in a bit of a rush, or have to work through lunch, sending one guy to Noodles after calling ahead is a very good option for a whole team. Definitely a better lunch than ordering pizza yet again.

The actual food is the same thing I get pretty every time, though when I eat in I get some buns (to mop up the delicious sauce) and potstickers (because they are excellent). Like I said above, what's left of the menu for me is damn good. The buttered noodles are cheaper than their other dishes, on account of being butter, noodles, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, and a mix of delicious herbs. The macaroni and cheese is the same price as other dishes, and they take your average cream + cheese type macaroni mixture and then sprinkle herbs and even more cheese on top. Both of these are, frankly, the best damn iteration of their type that I have had anywhere. Better than I can make at home, really, and I've been working on them for twenty five years.

That's really about all there is to say about the place. They specialize in noodles, they do noodles very well, and if you don't get yourself some bread, you'll regret it, because you'll have to leave so much delicious sauce on the dishes.

  • Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken, and Caesar Salad Trio ($7.25)
  • Fountain Drink ($1.35)
They have an option for a "trio" dish, which is a combo meal. You get a small noodle dish of your choice, add meat/tofu, and a small garden or caesar salad. I tend to take this option and usually end up getting the mac & cheese trio listed above. I've tried other types, but that one impresses me the most. The drink is extra, but you get reasonable portions and it comes to about $10 for a total.

The mac & cheese is one of my favorites here. I tried it early on after ND had said how good it was. It's a bit different take than I normally think of mac & cheese. The sauce is more liquid and starts out at the bottom of the bowl. The noodles are "dry" with extra cheddar on top. Mix 'em up and you've got a great bowl o' noodles. The chicken comes sliced on top of the noodles for this one.

  • Japanese Pan Noodles ($5.25)
  • Cucumber and Tomato Salad ($2.50)
  • Fountain Drink ($1.35)
I opted for my usual this week of Japanese Pan Noodles and a Cucumber and Tomato Salad. Cham described the salad accurately. The mildly sweet vinegar and whatever spice they sprinkle on there reminds me of a yummy vinegar, cucumber, and onion concoction my grandma used to make -- but amazingly better with the sweetness.

The Japanese Pan Noodles have been good and reliable in the past, however I was disappointed this go around because they had a burnt taste to them. They were still palatable, but not as satisfying. The pan noodles are long, firm, girthy noodles with some bean sprouts, black seed things, and a spicy asian flavor. They weren't wet with any sauce, but they weren't completely dry either. I'm not a spicehag of any sort, as I'm sure I've mentioned in the past, so I found my tongue burning a little by the time I finished the plate, but it wasn't anything unbearable or terribly uncomfortable.

  • Indonesian Peanut Saute w/Chicken ($7.25)
  • Potstickers (3) ($2.95)
  • Fountain Drink ($1.35)
Girthy. Really.

Well, I also got the Peanut Saute, but first, potstickers. These are pan-fried and heavy on the being full of meat, and a bit above average as potstickers go. They come with a very flavorful dipping sauce, along the lines of most potstickers. Usually worth a buy.

As for the peanut saute, I'm a sucker for peanut sauce, and Noodles generally puts up a good show on that front. As Cham put it, it's not the thai you're looking for, but it is pretty good for its price and speed. A fairly busy dish with a lot of contrasts, as Maple noted, between the fairly firm sticky noodles and the bean sprouts. I'll note that it's really hard to work in the very large chunks of chicken they give you and make that chicken mix even. They essentially just cut up a (nicely cooked and flavored) breast and slap it down on top, as an add-on for any dish. I get the chicken in addition every time anyway, for the added flavor/meat, but it still bugs me.


snekse said...

On an unrelated topic - did you guys vote for the Best-ter-est of Omaha 2008?

NinjaDebugger said...

I hadn't, but once I'm not sick, I'll do so. Gotta get my vote in for best soup, at least.

Ang said...

Found this from a google search - I work at a Noodles...if you are allergic to any food, it can be left out of ALL dishes (I don't believe any sauces have mushrooms in them). If you want to be double sure, all cashiers have a list of all ingredients in all the sauces used, so you can always double check.

We get a lot of people with peanut allergies, so we use a different saute pan and all that.

Just a random comment from a random onlooker. :)

NinjaDebugger said...

This information is new to me. I am pleased! Noodles and Company gains +1 Awesome.