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Frugal Forager: Oodles of noodles and they’re all fresh

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Frugal Forager: Oodles of noodles and they’re all fresh

Noodles & Company is doing fast casual food very well
Frugal Forager: Oodles of noodles and they’re all fresh
Chicken noodle (right) and Thai curry soups at Noodles & Company in Latham.
Photographer: Caroline Lee
LATHAM — Noodles & Company is doing fast casual food very well. That category includes restaurants that don’t have full table service and promises a higher quality of food made with healthier ingredients.
It’s got to be harder, keeping fresh, not frozen, ingredients ready to cook at a moment’s notice all day long. It must cost more to use antibiotic-free meat, cage-free eggs and organic tofu. But it’s not prohibitively expensive; in fact, it’s pretty reasonably priced.
Virginia and I visited the location at the Latham Circle; there’s a location at Crossgates Commons as well. It’s modern and clean-looking, with a choice of comfy chairs, booths or counters.
Everything comes in a bowl and is made to order. The menu covers favorites, mostly comfort foods, from all over the globe. There’s Japanese udon noodles with lots of vegetables in a spicy soy sauce, steak stroganoff with egg noodles in a mushroom sherry cream sauce, spicy Korean beef noodles, Bangkok curry — well, you get the idea.
These are Americanized versions, of course, and tamer, but I give them points for trying to offer variety. You can customize, too. And hooray, the menu lists calorie counts. “That helps me decide,” said Virginia.
Instructions for ordering are crystal-clear. Choose your entree, pick the size (small or large), add protein, and a side, if you like. Sides include two kinds of soup, salads and mac and cheese. Put in your order, and bring your cups to the table, along with a number to display.
It didn’t take long for our food to come out, which it does all at once. We liked that everything came on real white tableware, and we got metal forks and knives rolled into a napkin. That raises the tone a bit.
We started with the pot stickers ($2.99 for 3), chicken and vegetable dumplings much improved by fiery soy dipping sauce. Watch out, this sauce is indeed hot, with lots of bits of red pepper floating around.
Virginia ordered a cup of chicken noodle soup (soups and sides are $1.50 more with a meal) that was full of egg noodles and big pieces of home-style chicken. The requisite carrot, onion and celery were represented. It was nicely done, for food made so fast.
I had Thai curry soup ($1.50), slightly sweet and slightly hot, flavored with coconut and a bit of curry. There’s rice noodles, spinach, Napa and red cabbage, mushrooms, tomato, red onions and cilantro. It was a colorful bowlful, one I found easier to eat with the chopsticks provided at the condiment station, also clean.
“I have noodles and noodles,” Virginia said, looking between her soup and her meal. I did, too. Just keep that in mind when you order.
She wanted the penne rosa ($4.89 small), but without the spicy sauce. “Not a problem,” said the cashier. “I’ll just have them make it with marinara.” The marinara had flavors of fresh tomato and garlic, all in balance, and the dish was topped with real fresh Parmesan cheese, which got all melty while she had her soup. She liked it very much.
The Tuscan Fresca ($6.29 large), was a bowl of whole-grain noodles tossed with fresh spinach, tomato and red onion in a very light sauce made with olive oil, white wine and roasted garlic. I topped it off with a freshly-cooked chicken breast ($2.69) seasoned with black pepper. The Parmesan melted on mine, too, but didn’t integrate into the dish, just made bits that fell to the bottom. Some more garlic and balsamic vinegar would have livened it up, but it was healthy and fresh, tasted pretty good and was reasonably priced. Can’t complain.
I ate all the vegetables first, and have to say, the noodles do get a bit tedious. That won’t keep me from going back; I’d like to try the Wisconsin mac and cheese, or the Pad Thai.
Not only can I recommend Noodles & Company, I give them big points for their kid’s meals. There are healthy options and calorie counts there, too. They include choices like buttered noodles and grilled chicken, and sides like apple sauce and diced apples, stuff kids might actually eat. Get them an organic milk or juice, and you’re parent of the year.
The cost for the meal, with two diet fountain drinks came to $21.45, and we had some leftovers.
The people there were all really helpful and nice, they have fresh veggies and healthy food with lots of seasoning and flavors, so what’s not to like? It was new to both of us, and we walked away impressed. It’s good fast-casual.
Noodles & Company

WHERE: 800 Loudon Road (Shoppes at Latham Circle), 785-3293, www.noodles.com.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m Friday and Saturday.

HOW MUCH: $21.45, with two fountain drinks.

MORE INFO: Credit Cards: MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express. ADA compliant. Children’s menu. Large parking lot.
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