Noodles & company is set to open it’s first Orlando location to the public on Monday, March 3, 2014 at 11 am in the Crossroads plaza in Lake Buena Vista off S.R. 535, directly across from Hotel Plaza Blvd. The philosophy of the popular Colorado fast-casual chain is based around several key tenets: use of seasonal ingredients, each dish is prepared to order and completely customizable based on your creativity or dietary requirements and all for about $8.00 a dish (large, with protein added). If you aren’t 100% happy with your dish, let the staff know and you can choose something else at no additional charge.
I was invited to sit down and explore the global cuisine, and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed each dish that I sampled. There are a lot of choices, so I’m looking forward to coming back for lunch or dinner, already. The contemporary space is open and filled with booths and tables that can accommodate a couple or a larger group. Dave Mathews Dreaming Tree wine was displayed, as were several craft beers (New Belgium). Beside two Coke Freestyle machines was a selection of Sriracha, Noodles & Company’s own signature Smolder From Boulder heated spice blend, soy sauce and grinders with sea salt and pepper to season your dish to taste at your table.
Upon arriving, customers place their orders at the counter- any questions about the menu, nutritional information or possible allergens are easily answered and available for review. Calorie conscious? No problem, full disclosure on the menu. Training for that Disney marathon and need to meet your daily food goals? Check out their handy infographic detailing ways to eat healthier or use creative combinations to achieve your goals. Trying to cut down or avoid gluten? Got that covered too- along with serving rice noodles and a gluten-free fusilli pasta, there are several dishes with gluten-free ingredients to choose from. After placing your order, fill your drink and relax. Servers will be by your table to deliver your meal, served on real plates and bowls- not plastic, paper or melamine. The friendly staff will also check in on you, refill drinks and clear with a smile and no expectation of a tip.
Thai Curry soup. 30 ingredients are used to make this spicy, vegetarian-friendly broth.
The Noodles & Company menu is broken down into categories and offers a small and larger portion of each pasta and soup. The cuisine ranges from Italian, Asian, Mediterranean and popular America dishes, while also injecting some Latin flair in several dishes. Fresh vegetables are plentiful in most dishes and the naturally raised pork is hormone & antibiotic free, tender and a great option for a lean protein in many dishes. Marinated steak, chicken breast, sautéed shrimp, organic tofu and oven-roasted meatballs can be added to any dish. The Thai Curry Soup was delicious, offering a nice depth of flavor and finished with a spicy kick from fresh Fresno peppers. Mushrooms, spinach, cabbage, tomato, red onion and rice noodles completed the soup. (Don’t like one of those ingredients- ask them to leave it out!) My husband who hates coconut, loved the yellow coconut curry broth. This same broth is the base for the Thai Hot Pot, a very filling option for an entrée. The menu has a pepper icon by any spicier dish, so take note. With fresh ingredients like Fresno peppers used, the heat can vary depending on the heat of that particular pepper. Let the order-taker know if you have a sensitivity to spice and they can adjust accordingly in the kitchen.
The Tomato Basil Bisque was delicious as well. Rich, creamy with a bit texture from the tomatoes, the bisque was a great starter or enjoyed alongside one of the creamy pasta dishes. As the calorie count was displayed, I happily enjoyed the tasty soup, knowing it was less caloric and fat-filled than Tomato Basil Bisque in a comparable size, served elsewhere.
Wisconsin Cheesesteak, side portions (small) of Tomato Basil Bisque, Wisconsin Mac & Cheese and the Cucumber Tomato Salad.
Sandwiches like the hearty Wisconsin Cheesesteak use flatbreads instead of sandwich rolls, an easy way to keep calories reasonable without sacrificing taste. Included with a sandwich is a side salad or soup. The Cucumber Tomato salad packed a ton of flavor with ripe tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions tossed in balsamic dressing.
Japanese Pan Noodles. Caramelized udon noodles, sweet soy sauce, broccoli, carrots, shitake mushrooms, Asian sprouts, black sesame seeds and cilantro.
Top selling dishes include the Japanese Pan Noodles, a large portion of pan-fried udon noodles with vegetables. The menu offers suggestions of a protein to add; the marinated steak ($2.69) was the menu suggestion and a nice choice.
Barbecue Pork Mac. This Featured dish is available for a limited time. Mac & cheese topped with braised pork, barbecue sauce and crunchy onions.
For those seeking rich and indulgent dishes, there are several including one of the current featured dishes- Barbecue Pork Mac. Braised pork is seasoned nicely. While you can keep the individual components somewhat separate in your forkfuls, we liked this dish mixed up to get the creamy cheese sauce mixed with the tangy barbecue sauce along with the tender pork, al dente noodles and crunchy fried onions. We added some Smolder From Boulder seasoning for a nice kick.
Chinese Chicken Chop Salad. Grilled Chicken, sesame-soy tossed mixed greens, Asian sprouts, cabbage, red bell pepper, cucumbers, carrots, crispy wontons and black sesame.
The Chinese Chicken Chop Salad is a big, hearty and flavorful salad without a ton of calories. I’m a fan of this type of salad at various restaurants around Orlando, it was amazing to see this come up under 500 calories.
Thai Hot Pot, Yellow coconut curry broth, fresh cabbage blend, sprouts, Fresno peppers, shiitake mushrooms, a sprinkling of rice noodles, pulled chicken and pork. Finished with a lime wedge and a sprig of cilantro and served with a side of toasted Asian flatbread. Available for a limited time.
The Thai Hot Pot uses the yellow coconut curry broth with the addition of sliced Fresno peppers to kick up the heat. On my visit, this dish was particularly spicy; both my husband and I loved the heat. Like things milder? Just mention it when you are ordering. Also remember that all Noodles & Company menu items are completely customizable, so it is simple to remove anything that isn’t to your liking.
Whole Grain Tuscan Linguine. Whole Grain linguine, broccoli, red bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, garlic, white wine cream & parmesan.
The Whole Grain Tuscan Linguine was delicious- I wish I could buy this whole grain pasta to prepare at home. The white wine, cream and parmesan sauce was light and a nice take on those who enjoy Alfredo. I really enjoyed the acidity and dimension the wine brought to the dish. (Remember, the alcohol is cooked off during the cooking process!)
Gluten Free fusilli made with the ingredients for the Penne Rosa (sans penne) and topped with feta instead of parmesan for a completely Gluten Free option.
The Gluten Free fusilli pasta was a surprise, it is toothsome like traditional pasta- but is made of rice and corn. A great option for those looking to go gluten free or cut back on gluten. If you weren’t told this was gluten free pasta, you most likely would not know. There are several dishes on the menu (Pasta Fresca, Penne Rosa, Pad Thai, Pesto Cavatappi, The Med Salad, Whole Grain Tuscan Linguini) that are made with gluten free ingredients. These make delicious GF dishes when the regular pasta is removed. Those who have a severe gluten allergy should keep in mind, that the kitchen does have gluten present.
Pad Thai- sautéed rice noodles stir fried with scrambled egg, carrots, cabbage. sweet chili. citrus and peanuts, Asian sprouts and cilantro
The Pad Thai had a nice traditional flavor; the menu suggests trying with sautéed shrimp, which was a nice addition ($2.59). The shrimp were prepared well and there was a nice portion in the small size. I added Sriracha for a kick, but it can be ordered spicy.
Classic Spaghetti and meatballs
What is pasta, without the classic spaghetti and meatballs? It’s here! Pasta was cooked perfectly and served with a nice amount of sauce and meatballs.
Pork Adobo Flatbread. Spicy Latin adobo flavors of cumin and fire-roasted tomatoes, naturally raised pork, cheese and Fresno peppers, toasted atop flatbread and finished with fresh lime and cilantro
A nice starter or meal can be made with one of the flatbreads; we tried the Pork Adobo flatbread which was big on flavor and had a spicy kick.
Alfredo MontAmore® Spaghetti noodles tossed with a decadent four-cheese blend, roasted mushrooms, grape tomatoes, spinach and Parmesan chicken. Topped with a sprinkle of MontAmore ® cheese, parsley and fresh cracked pepper.
A new addition and a featured item is the Alfredo MontAmore ®, made with the distinctive Wisconsin MontAmore ® cheese, similar in taste to parmesan- but with a pleasing creaminess. The Alfredo sauce was deliciously rich and creamy, we sampled with the addition of parmesan crusted chicken ($2.59), as the menu suggested. A great addition.
Bangkok Curry. Sweet coconut curry, broccoli, carrots, red bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, a light portion of rice noodles served on cabbage, with black sesame seeds- added organic tofu.
Be sure to join the Lake Buena Vista E Club for COUPONS, special offers, menu updates and more. Those who join the Lake Buena Vista E club should have several nice introductory specials for the next three months to get to know Noodles & Company. Look for a second Noodles & Company Orlando location in Dr. Phillips to open early summer. Members of that E Club will receive updates on the summer grand opening, special events discounts.
Can’t wait until Monday’s grand opening to check out Noodle & Company? I don’t blame you. This Sunday, March 2, 2014 from 11 am- 2pm and again from 5pm-8pm there is a special Noodles & Company Grand Opening preview to benefit the Orlando JCC. The suggested donation at the door is $5 per person, and each guest will receive their choice of food item and non alcoholic drink. 100% of the money collected will go to the Orlando JCC; please RSVP on Facebook and remember that this special event is first come, first serve basis.
Disclosure: I was a guest at Noodles & Company, no other form of compensation was received and the opinions in this post are my own. Cheers!