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Published January 08, 2013, 11:56 PM

The EatBeat: Noodles & Company offers classic comfort and more

GRAND FORKS - It was a note from a friend, Lauren Hornbaker (LH), which got me moving toward the new Noodles & Company restaurant near Columbia Mall.

By: Marilyn Hagerty, Forum News Service, INFORUM

GRAND FORKS - It was a note from a friend, Lauren Hornbaker (LH), which got me moving toward the new Noodles & Company restaurant near Columbia Mall.

Like many people, LH likes “mac ’n’ cheese” and considers it a comfort food. At Noodles, she almost always orders the fancy version, the Truffle Mac for $7.95.

The dish is made with the same sauce and elbow macaroni as their popular Wisconsin Mac and Cheese. However, it adds white truffle oil, baby portabella mushrooms and is topped with toasted bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.

LH has never had a bad meal at Noodles & Company. The service always has been fast and pleasant with the food delivered to the table after ordering at the counter.

And finally, if you can’t finish your meal, Noodles offers cute little takeout boxes that fold on the top — an updated take on the standard Chinese takeout box.

After the recommendation from LH, I visited Noodles & Co. a couple of times. I found the Wisconsin Mac and Cheese a worthy dish and enhanced by the toasted bread crumbs. It’s one of those things I could easily make at home — but I don’t. With it, I had some Dr. Pepper from the serve-yourself drink center.

On another visit, I ordered Chinese chop salad ($5.95) that turned out to be a perfect lunch after nonstop eating during the recent holidays. The greens with Asian sprouts, cabbage, red pepper, cucumber and carrot bits were crunchy and appealing because they were tossed a small amount of sharp sesame soy sauce.

At Noodles, you sort of fend for yourself. You pick up your drinks and find a table — with a choice of high or low seats and a bar across the front windows of the place where you can sit on stools and watch the cars in the parking lot.

Food is delivered quickly by nimble servers who wear black shirts that say in white letters either “Travel Asia” or “Discover America” on the back.

There is music, but it is not discernible. This is not your quiet kind of place where you can linger and listen to music. But it has a busy-bee charm of its own with a menu that speaks to the basic needs for pasta and noodles with Asian choices, salads and soups.

Nothing is pretentious here. But the decor is pleasing with tones of soft green, beige and yellow.

Noodles is part of a chain of fast casual restaurants that opened its first store in the Cherry Creek area of Denver 17 years ago.

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