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Dining out: Noodles & Company

My oldest daughter, Emma, has been in a frenzy of anticipation about Noodles & Company opening in our neighborhood.

I think it's the name. It's as much of a kid magnet as naming a place "Chocolate & Company" or "Gum & Company."

Noodles & Company is much, much healthier than either of those restaurants would be, with a diverse menu of delicious food often made with organic ingredients.

We recently visited two Noodles restaurants, one in Murray and one in Fort Union. Despite slight differences, the restaurants offered high-quality food in just a little longer than a jiffy.

My predecessor here reviewed the first Noodles restaurant in the valley when it opened in Sugar House. But I thought the place was worth a second look, considering the three additional locations and the fact that there are new items on the menu.

I had one, the Bangkok curry, at the Fort Union store. It's a fragrantly spicy presentation of mushrooms, snap peas, carrots, red peppers and onions in a light yellow curry, served over rice noodles. I also added firm, sweet shrimp.

But I liked my meal at the Murray restaurant even better. That time I had penne rosa, a tomato cream sauce flecked with red pepper flakes and tossed with white wine, mushrooms, whole-leaf spinach and roma tomatoes, with cheese sprinkled on top. I also added shrimp, and it was a treat; just spicy enough to add interest, with the spinach and mushroom lending substance to the dish.

My husband picked a winner, the mushroom stroganoff, at the Murray store and stuck with it for our Fort Union visit. It's amazing how different the stroganoff is from the Italian and Asian dishes. The thick, wavy egg noodles are a world apart from rice noodles. They're topped with an earthy sherry cream sauce that features plenty of fresh mushrooms and, in my husband's case, sliced grilled steak.

Noodles' menu is easy to navigate. There's a color-coded system showing whether a dish is kid-friendly, spicy or vegetarian. Virtually all of the noodle dishes start out veggie, but you can add the aforementioned beef and shrimp, chicken breast, organic tofu, veggies and feta or Parmesan cheese.

You can get an entree-size portion, or a small portion that's a good size for kids. Our kids liked the stroganoff but adored the simple buttered egg noodles with Parmesan and the very good Wisconsin mac and cheese, which consisted of plump elbow macaroni coated with a creamy, slightly sharp cheese sauce and oozy melted Cheddar-Jack cheese.

One tip: If your kids are at all sensitive to spicy food, order their meals without seasoning. The Murray Noodles added a sprinkling of red pepper flakes to the kids' mac and cheese, rendering it prettier but uneatable for a couple of the girls. The flakes weren't added at the Fort Union location, even though I forgot to ask about it.

There's more on the menu: intriguing salads, several with noodles, and a whole new "noodle-less" section of meaty entrees.

There are also several side dishes — we tried and liked the chewy potstickers filled with ground chicken and veggies and dipped in a fiery soy-ginger sauce — and a couple of desserts. We had the "Rice Krispy treat," a nice balance of crisp and chewy, and the Puddin' Cookie, a great, snickerdoodle-like cookie with a soft, cinnamon-studded interior and a delicate crust of cinnamon and sugar outside. (I'm not sure why it's named Puddin' Cookie, as there's no puddin' to be found.)

Entrees $2.75-$7.75, salads $3.45-$4.95, add-ons $1.50-$2.25, sides 65 cents-$4.95, desserts $1.50.

Noodles & Company

Rating: ***

Where: Salt Lake City, 358 S. 700 East (359-8315)

Sugar House, 1152 E. 2100 South (466-8880)

Murray, 5207 S. State (284-5757)

Fort Union, 6901 S. 1300 East (565-7256)

Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Payment: Cash, credit cards

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: