Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Okay, here is the deal, as told to us by Kate, one of the managers at the South County location of the Noodles & Company, no money is spent on billboards, commercials or other advertising and they basically get customers from word of mouth.  So, I thought of it as a bit of a coincidence that me business card from this magazine, gets picked to win me and 5 other people a free tasting.  But, I'll go along with it.

So, we arrived last night, just in time and the 5 of us sat down.  I had my family, my wife, two kids, and her cousin, Franco.  We sat down to what we all thought would be just a few dishes, small portions for us to try as this whole thing was free.  However, as Kate told us, they would be bringing us regular sized portions, and a lot of them, so we better be hungry.  Well, Franco had stated that he wished I told him this so he could have skipped lunch.

First up, Kate brought out some pot stickers and a spinach salad.  The pot stickers tasted like they had a nice mild spicy chicken flavor inside and were just the right crunchy on the outside.  They went best with this dipping sauce, which was like soy sauce mixed with red pepper flakes and something else tasty.  The sauce was good enough that if we had shot glasses, we would have taken them all in unison.
The spinach salad was reminiscent of all other greatly executed spinach salads with a warm bacon dressing.  This one was a bit different because the tart flavor was due to some balsamic vinegar and to cut that were some freshly cut strawberries.  You tasted, spinach, bacon, vinegar and strawberries and sometimes the flavors were all at once and created a complex flavor symphony.

Okay, so what made this such a good start, was also the fact that Kate, may have been smarter than the average bear.  She noticed that we had brought in two kids with us, my 3 and 5 year old.  She may have noticed that they were acting a bit, well, like a 3 year old and a 5 year old boy does.  So, she also brought out  a dish of the regular mac & cheese as well as a dish of the buttered noodles.

The mac & cheese is a winner, every time we come to this place.  We always order a dish and split it between my two boys.  It is regular elbow macaroni with a cheese sauce and shredded cheese on top of that. We also had the buttered noodles.

The buttered noodles is mostly what I get.  I do like trying new things, but after a long week on a Friday night, which is usually when we get to the mall and go out to eat, I feel like just eating some simple comfort food.  The buttered noodles dish is simply wide egg noodles served in butter with some salty Parmesan cheese.  It is so simple, but I love it.

So, when we start to make our way through that first round, Kate talks to us about the first section of food: Asian.  She talks to us and stresses that all dishes are cooked to order, can be made custom, and made from the freshest ingredients.  She started off with bringing out the Indonesian Peanut Saute' and the Thai Curry Soup, which is one we requested that we wished to try.

The Indonesian Peanut Saute' was spicy and nice.  It is listed as the most spicy item on the whole menu and the 3 of us, adults, loved it.  It had a nice Asian flavor to it and as you eat it, it gets better and better.  Then when you finish it.  You think to yourself, where is the spice?  And then it hits you.  Spicy enough to make your nose run, and to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but not too spicy.

The Thai Curry Soup was next and we are always a bit paranoid about other places serving Thai food.  We do, after all, live within 3 miles from the best Thai restaurant in the St. Louis metropolitan area: Thai House.  The soup had that nice and spicy yellow curry flavor in the broth, loads of vegetables and a few noodles.  It was like an Asian version of a noodle soup.  It was very nice.

Alright, so it is at this time that the three of us, announce that we are full.  But Kate doesn't hear us, or pretends to not to, and she keeps on bringing us delicious and delightful dishes.  The next dish was The Med Salad, which is your Mediterranean salad, using Romaine, greens, tomatoes, red onion and such with a yogurt dressing and feta cheese.  What a tasty salad, it tasted like a salad that you would find in your best Italian restaurants.

To go along with this, also from the Mediterranean menu, was the Pasta Fresca, which was a very Italian inspired pasta.  It had a nice mix of vegetables as well.

So, we are making our way now, filling our stomachs even further and the Whole Grain Tuscan Linguine comes out.  It is tasty, as you can taste the difference in the pasta flavor, being a whole grain instead of a white starch, complete with some Parmesan-crusted chicken on top.  It was tasty and the crust on the chicken was very good.

I know what you are thinking, we have to be blowing up at this point.  It is also at this point that Kate tells us some wonderful and unexpected news: we can take home all the food we don't finish.  All this time, my wife and I were thinking that this was just like any other free tasting in which they would take back anything  we didn't finish.  We were wrong as Kate brought out a stack of to-go boxes and we started to fill them up.  This was awesome, not only we were getting a feast fit for a king, at no cost with a manager being our personal server and guide, but we got to keep all of it as well.  Hail to the king, baby.

Kate comes out with the final nail, the last punch and the two dishes left that completely ruined us.  The first one out from the American menu selection was a Chili Mac & Cheese.  This mac & cheese had a spicy chili on top of it as well.

The second dish that they gave us was an instant winner: Truffle Mac & Cheese.  Many years ago when I started watching Food Network television, I became interested in truffles and eventually tried them and loved them.  A quick stop at Whole Foods where I purchased truffle oil quickly spring boarded me onto the truffle bandwagon.  My wife and I were using that truffle infused oil for everything from stir fry to popcorn.  I love the taste of truffles and this restaurant does the same thing.  The Truffle Mac & Cheese is made by basically cooking everything with truffle oil.  Even the mushrooms, I believe they were procini mushrooms, Kate may have said, were cooked in the truffle oil so it tasted as if they were each truffles.

Now is the part of the tasting that I had just about everything boxed up and we are all finished, filled to the brim.  Just then our new friend Kate shows up with another tray of food, this time, as sandwiches.  She brought us The Med Duo which has chicken and tons of vegetables with a Med dressing.

We also had another kind of sandwich on that same plate.  The second one was the Wisconsin Cheesesteak Duo, which I didn't get a bite but everyone else was very happy with.  We are full, beyond full and our bellies are in pain with so much good food.  Just when we thought it was over, it almost was.  Next was dessert.  What? Really?  Kate really expects us to eat anything else?  I had food that was comparable in taste and satisfaction as some expensive restaurants in town.  Kate comes out with dessert and my 5 year old's jaw hits the floor.  A selection of giant cookies and rice krispy treats large enough to use as bricks for a castle.

Let me tell you now, that the only thing which I did not try on this table was the Wisconsin Cheesesteak Duo sandwich.  I tried a little bite of everything else and was happy with everything. The great thing about the Noodles & Company is that their prices are extremely reasonable, with most of those noodle dishes being less than $6 even as a regular bowl which is normally just $5.39.  This is a lot of food for such a small price and by the silence at our table, for most of the tasting, the mac & cheese dishes should keep your kids calm and quiet.

Thanks to the Noodles & Company staff for keeping up with us and thanks to Kate for taking care of us.  Thanks also to the store manager, Alex Cedeno for contacting me and setting this all up and for having us.  It was our first tasting experience anywhere and it was quite a very good evening.   If any of these pictures looked good or tasty, please go over to the Noodles & Company at the South County Mall, or wherever one is near you and go in.

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