Epicurious magazine predicts noodle bars will be one of the top food trends of 2009, and who are we to argue? It’s really just a spin on the old Top Ramen/starving-student angle: Noodles are cheap, filling and comforting—perfect for these recessionary times. Here are a few places we found while noodling around.
Restaurant: Davis Noodle City 129 E St., Suite D-1, Davis
The Dish: Dan dan noodles ($4.75)
Noodle Notes: Deep bowl of delicate egg noodles swimming in a warm bath of Szechwan sesame peanut sauce, with green onions and crushed peanuts.
Side Notes: Charming little spot whose claim to fame is its housemade noodles.
The Verdict: Tender noodles, but sauce was more wan than Szechwan; next time, I’ll try the kim chi noodle soup, which a fellow patron says “rocks.”
Restaurant: Lemon Grass Asian Grill & Noodle Bar 945 Howe Ave., Sacramento
The Dish: Stir-fried chicken noodle bowl ($7.25)
Noodle Notes: Rice noodles with grilled chicken strips, a field of colorful vegetables (snow peas, cabbage, carrots and more), chopped peanuts and a mildly spicy nuoc cham sauce.
Side Notes: A busy, bustling spot; be ready to wait for a table (or sit at the bar).
The Verdict: Super-fresh and full of fun textures: Soft noodles + crunchy veggies = happy mouth.
Restaurant: Noodle House Restaurant 5800 Madison Ave., Suite X, Sacramento
The Dish: Barbecue pork with lemon grass, peanuts and salad with rice noodles ($6.25)
Noodle Notes: Skinny, short-cut noodles with thin-sliced pork and a salad of iceberg, bean sprouts and carrots, sprinkled with peanuts and served with chili and plum sauces.
Side Notes: Family-owned restaurant with slow but gracious service.
The Verdict: So-so; pork was a bit on the chewy side, but other patrons (and there were many) seemed happy slurping the soup.
Restaurant: Shoki Ramen House 2675 24th St., Sacramento
The Dish: Shoyu ramen soup with chashu pork ($6.90)
Noodle Notes: Perfectly cooked noodles in a soy-sauce-flavored broth, topped with bamboo shoots, seaweed, green onion, spinach and thin pork slices.
Side Notes: A tiny place with a big heart; they work hard to get it right.
The Verdict: From the soothing housemade broth (said to take 6 to 8 hours to prepare) to the bouncy noodles, the emphasis here is on quality and authenticity.
Restaurant: T.M. Noodle 4110 Manzanita Ave., Carmichael
The Dish: Combination over pan-fried noodles ($6.99)
Noodle Notes: Lightly crisped rice noodle patties accompany a mélange of tender meats (pork, shrimp, chicken) and mixed veggies in a rich brown sauce.
Side Notes: Small, family-owned restaurant where everything is served with TLC.
The Verdict: Unusual dish, beautifully executed and full of flavor, exceeded all expectations. I’ll be back.