Sunday, July 8, 2007

Noodles & Company

A few months ago, Barnes & Noble closed the friendly little neighborhood B. Dalton Bookseller a few blocks down the street from my place. I believe it was the last chain bookstore in the city of St. Louis. Now you have to go out to the suburbs to browse Borders and B&N, which one of my friends calls "the Evil Empire." I'm just ticked that I can't impulse-shop for books any more. I have to plan to spend time in any of several enormous stores that are none of them exactly convenient for me to visit. Not that this has done much to slow my perpetual binge of buying and reading books...

What went into the strip mall slot where B. Dalton used to live? The restaurant whose logo is at the right. At first I thought this was an odd choice to put in next door to a nice little pizza-and-subs place, but there turns out not to be as much cross-over as you might think. The menu offers 4 choices of noodle recipes, a soup, and a salad, under each of 3 headings (Asian, Mediterranean, and American comfort-food), plus your choice of beef, chicken, shrimp, tofu, or none of the above. They also have a nice-sized selection of drinks, including some adult beverages, and a couple kinds of big cookies or Rice Krispie bars. It's a pretty nice place.

The first few times I ate there, I wasn't very impressed. In fact, I was so underwhelmed that I had almost decided never to go back. My mistake was starting with the Asian and Mediterranean specialties, which suffer from too many fussy little ingredients that (for me) add nothing but frustration to the recipes. But then, yesterday, against my better judgment, I stopped in at Noodles & Co. for a small bowl mushroom stroganoff with sauteed beef. It was awesome! The beef was meltingly tender with an ideal pot-roast flavor; I have no idea how they accomplished that! And the whole dish was so yummy that I went back again for supper and had a plain, small bowl of macaroni and cheese. Mmmm!

Today after church I lunched there again, choosing the buttered noodles with a seared chicken breast. It was also very good - and a squirt of the Vietnamese hot red pepper sauce (a bottle of which is on every table) didn't hurt. I'm thinking about getting a bottle of that stuff and using it to doctor up some deviled eggs. Maybe I'll take it to a Harry Potter book release party later this month and call it "phoenix eggs."

I might eventually grow brave enough to take another run at Noodles & Co.'s Mediterranean and Asian menus. Certainly I'll know enough by then to ask for some special touches, such as "light on the cilantro" and "please, no crushed peanuts." The tomato bisque looks appealing as it is. But for now, I think I might just enjoy a good, long wallow in American-style comfort food. Don't tell my Mom.

No comments: