New Drag establishment serves up noodle variety, convenience

Sara Benner

Noodles & Company is the last franchise to fill out the space that once was Follett’s Intellectual Property on the Drag. Featuring a multi-cuisinal customizable menu with at least eight different kinds of noodles, Noodles & Company, at least on paper, sounds like a great place to take a group of friends with thin billfolds who are all craving something different.

Its menu is divided into three regions: Asian, Mediterranean and American. The items aren’t exactly authentic, but there’s variety: everything from peanut saute to mushroom stroganoff. They even have a few different versions of macaroni and cheese, including bacon cheeseburger mac and chili mac.

After waiting in line, you order a dish, decide whether you’d like to combine it with one of the soups or salads, and then you can upgrade your dish with a protein such as chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu, or add extra cheese or additional vegetables. But be careful: by adding a protein and two vegetables, your cute $4 entree doubles in price.

During lunch, it’s pretty busy: the lines are long and seating is sparse. However, it has an online ordering option through its website and an iPhone application, which eliminates the lines, but it doesn’t offer a delivery service.

For what this venue is, it’s not bad. The pad thai is some of the best on the Drag but not in Austin. Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish typically served with fried egg, fish sauce, red chili pepper, bean sprouts, peanuts, cilantro and either tofu, chicken or shrimp. Though Noodles & Company is a little too generous with the bean sprouts, the slightly spicy stir-fried and peanut-topped noodles are quite tasty.

The “grown-up” macaroni and cheese, the Truffle Mac, is an earthy and cheesy delight. The al dente mac-elbows are enveloped in a cheese sauce infused with white truffle oil and garlic, topped with sightly charred portabello mushrooms and covered in a thick layer of shredded Parmesan. When it comes to macaroni and cheese, there’s no such thing as too much cheese, but in this case, the overzealous layer of Parmesan destroyed the visual effect of the dish.

Again, though the menu items are not authentic, the Mediterranean portion of the menu finally fills the glaring Italian cuisine gap on the Drag. The spiral Cavatappi noodles are whimsical and fun, but the herbal basil pesto with wine undertones make the flavors sufficient to satisfy an Italian food craving. The Cavatappi is served with a sprinkling of mushrooms, near-poached tomatoes and garlic.

Noodles & Company also offers a variety of soups and salads, such as the Thai Curry Soup, a coconut curry broth with spinach, cabbage, mushrooms, tomato, red onion and rice noodles, or the Very Berry Spinach Salad topped with strawberries, pecans, crumbled bacon and blue cheese topped with a fig vinaigrette.

Despite its long lines and overzealous garnishing, Noodles & Company is bound to be a Drag favorite for its convenience and variety.

Printed on Monday, November 21, 2011 as: Noodle restaurant offers pasta dishes, convenience