The McDonald's on the corner of Jefferson and Nichols on the Plaza recently closed down and some time later, a new chain boasted its upcoming opening. Noodles & Company was its name.
"Ew," she added. "I bet they just have a huge vat of overcooked spaghetti in the back and they just throw in some kind of sauce or topping depending on what you get."
Alas. We were pretty much right.
Elizabeth had to work late the other night and we didn't have any leftovers on hand for me to make. So I decided to find out what Noodles & Co was really all about and get some takeout. The menu boasts all types of noodles, not just one nationality. Choose from Asian, Mediterranean, American or "Customize-it".
The only noodle dish on the American list that was actually what I would call American was Wisconsin Mac 'n Cheese. Noodles & Co, though, would like to credit the US of A for Stroganoff (Russian), Marinara and good ol' Spaghetti and Meatballs (Italian). Maybe even more ridiculous was the fact that "buttered noodles" was also listed on the menu. I mean - really? Do you even need to put that on the menu? If people want buttered noodles, they'll just ask if they can get plain buttered noodles. Listing it on the menu, though, conveys the idea that buttered noodles are some great recipe idea the restaurant came up with. As if they're saying, "we specialize in stroganoff, marinara and, oh, you should really try our house special - buttered noodles! You've never had anything like them." But, of course, you have. Everyone has.
Moving on. The bad: the lime was utterly and completely without juice. When I squeezed it over the top, it frayed and shredded, disintegrating into a pathetic rind with a strange explosion of fibrous pulp hanging from it and immediately reminding me of Clark Griswold cutting into the Christmas turkey which immediately deflated on the dining room table. Sick.
The toppings were a melange of the usual suspects: bean sprouts, broccoli and carrot sticks, which I am happy to say were all nice and crisp. Not overcooked. Lots of shredded cabbage was mixed through, and due to the terrarium effect caused by the tight lid trapping steam, its deep purple color washed out and spread itself into the noodles in a disconcerting way that made me wonder if it had been painted purple for faux freshness. The peanut sauce was detectable, but a little thin. I was given no condiments, and due to a low salt content, I felt it needed a little soy sauce. No hot sauce either, so I hit it with a few dollops of my own sambal oelek when I opened it up at home.
The rice sticks (noodles) were overcooked. Quite mushy and falling apart. And the peanut sauce lacked depth, severely. Tasted like they had just mixed some peanut butter into the noodles which, when heated, became thin enough to coat the noodles like a sauce.
I'd opted to add chicken to mine, to test the quality of their meats. It was all-white meat, apparently pounded thin and then pan seared with a little flour dusting on it (I'm guessing this preparation is done because it works better with the Italian-style menu items and they're not into the idea of having to prepare chicken in more ways than one). There were no bad bites, but it was very bland, adding nothing but some protein to the dish. The fried tofu chunks I also found in my noodles were spongy and flavorless, as well, but that's kind of how fried tofu is.
While picking up, I also grabbed one of the large cookies sitting next to the register. Forced to choose between chocolate chip or snicker doodle, I went with snicker doodle just because I don't come across them as often, and I usually find them hugely delicious.
Shame on me for not noticing the specs of apple before arriving back at home. I was willing to keep an open mind about the apple, but one bite in, the disappoint swept over me. A snicker doodle isn't a snicker doodle with fruit in it. It's got to be simpler than that. Cookie batter, cinnamon and sugar on top. That's it. The apple made it taste like coffee cake - not what I wanted after my meal.
Rating: zero napkins