Noodles & Company
Noodles & Company has opened its first Canadian location in the TD Centre across from McEwan inside the Financial District 's PATH. This fast-casual U.S. chain started in Colorado 20 years ago, and, as its name indicates, offers a "world kitchen" of noodle and pasta dishes on its menu.
Unlike most food options in the PATH, this place has its own dining area that seats over 60 guests. If dining in, customers order at the counter and dishes are delivered to them at their seats. There's also online ordering for quick pick-up orders. (Delivery is only available within the TD Centre for orders over $50.)
For those dining in, the space is licensed, and bottles of local beer (Steam Whistle, Flying Monkeys, Mill Street, Granville Island) and 5oz glasses of Niagara wines are sold for $6 each. An organic blend of bottomless drip coffee ($2.40) uses beans from roaster Social Coffee Co., and it's free on Fridays as a gesture of customer appreciation.
As an eatery concept, it's pretty straightforward: choose a noodle or pasta dish (selections range from Wisconsin Mac & Cheese or Pesto Cavatappi to Japanese Pan Noodles or Indonesian Peanut Saute); decide on size ($5.40 for small, $7 for regular); add meat ($3.30-$3.60) or organic tofu ($3.30); and substitute with gluten-free pasta ($1/$1.50) if needed.
Entrees can be customized since they're prepared to order, and I'm told 80% of the ingredients are sourced locally, with the exception of the noodles themselves (they have a variety of origins) and the sauces, which come from its Colorado headquarters.
We try a regular order of Penne Rosa with feta, which comes with a spicy tomato cream sauce that isn't really that spicy, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach. It's one of the most popular items in the States, and it's not bad at all for $7, but I'm told so far, Toronto seems more interested in the Asian-inspired dishes.
Bangkok Curry contains rice noodles, a sweet, absolutely not spicy, coconut curry and veggies topped with black sesame seeds. We add sauteed shrimp ($3.40 extra) to the entree, and while this doesn't really taste like anything I ever had in Bangkok - it could also use a bit more sauce - it's a decent, if inauthentic, meal. Not sure it's worth $10.40 though.
When we visit, the featured dish is a Thai Hot Pot ($10), which again, is a bit of a misnomer as it's really just noodle soup in a bowl, with an actually spicy curry broth, veggies and sprouts, rice noodles and pulled chicken and pork accompanied by toasted Asian flatbread.
It's tasty and substantial, but I have to dig to find the rice noodles as there aren't very many, and I could do without the flatbread as it's not very good, nor do I see the point of having it. (When do hot pots, or noodle soups for that matter, ever come with flatbreads?!)
In terms of dessert, there's banana bread ($3), cookies (oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip) as well as house-made rice crispy treats ($2.30 each).
With plans for more locations on the way, diners just need to keep in mind that these are Americanized versions of Asian and Italian dishes, and perhaps it's wiser to stick to the American stuff (not that I tried any of it). That is, unless you like Americanized versions of Asian and Italian dishes (no judgment from me here).
Photos by Hector Vasquez