Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati

What happens when a rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar? We'll let you know in a few years, but until then we'll do our best to share with you our favorite (and not-so-favorite) Cincinnati restaurants and hope you'll share some with us, too!

Noodles & Co: Where Fast Food is Fast, but far from Fast Food

Noodles and Co.7800 Montgomery Road • Cincinnati, OH 45236 • (513) 791-6259

His Take

This post is one of the few about a restaurant I hadn't really planned to visit until literally 10 seconds before I turned into the parking lot. Noodles & Company is all about pasta (as the name makes obvious) and has the appearance of being just another neighborhood fast-food joint. But if that's what you are expecting, you're definitely in for a treat.

I visited the Noodles & Co. location across from the Kenwood mall as I was driving up Montgomery Road with a friend and starving. We were on our way elsewhere and didn't want to stop long enough to eat at Dewey's, Cheesecake, or some other dine-in spot along the way, but we weren't desperate enough to hit up a true fast-food joint. Noodles seemed like a decent compromise. I had seen the chain all over the place, but somehow had never been inside one.

The Noodles menu is based on several permutations of pasta, veggies, and proteins (chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu) -- 432 permutations to be precise. They've divided the menu by cuisine theme -- American, Asian, and Mediterranean. Each style has a few options for pastas, a soup, and a salad. Or just can make whatever combination you'd like.

I decided to start with a Chinese Chop Salad, which includes the usual fixings of sesame seeds, Asian vegetables, crispy wontons, and a sesame-soy dressing. The salad was bigger than I expected, but probably not big enough for a meal. I was impressed, though, because the ingredients looked and tasted very fresh and I've certainly had smaller, less tasty Asian salads for much more money. My friend opted for the smaller Cucumber and Tomato Salad, which is simply chopped tomatoes, cucumber, and onions with a little balsamic vinegar dressing. I didn't taste it, but it certainly looked fresh, and my friend was very content.

Since the name of the place is Noodles, I certainly wasn't going to leave without some pasta. My choice was the Pasta Fresca, one of their "Mediterranean" choices. The Pasta Fresca is penne with sauteed spinach, tomatoes, and onions in a balsamic vinegar, white wine, and garlic sauce.

Now, I'm not one to frequently order pasta at a restaurant, largely because I think I can do pasta at home just as well and for a fraction of the price. In other words, my expectations are pretty low for restaurant pasta because, seriously, how can you screw up pasta? That said, Noodles impressed me. The pasta was hot (which surprisingly doesn't always happen elsewhere), not drowned in oil (a la Pompilio's), and had exactly the flavor I wanted from those ingredients.

All in all, this was a successful, quick stop for lunch. It's inexpensive, fast, fresh, and generally pretty healthy -- a hard combination to come by on the road. If you need a quick lunch break, give this place a shot. You won't regret it.

Noodles & Company on Urbanspoon

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