New summer salads at Noodles & Company: two outta three ain't bad

J. Wohletz
Spinach & Fresh Fruit Salad.
I am a huge fan of noodle-sucking. I will suck noodles in such a disgusting, socially-reprehensible way that I even get filthy looks from small children. Slurp. Slurp-slurp.

And Noodles & Company knows how to feed my fix. I've always liked the Denver-based chain for its fast-cazh convenience and prices, as well as bowls of noodles smothered in sauce. So when I learned that it had just introduced a line of summer salads, I dry-rubbed my hands in glee and headed over to the Noodles & Co. at 2205 East Colfax Avenue.

J. Wohletz
Noodles & Co. at Colfax and Gaylord.
Walking into this store is like walking into any Noodles & Co. location -- which is actually very comforting. I've never seen any store that wasn't very clean and didn't play easy-listening world music at reasonable levels.

But this location has a bonus: "The Space-Age Beverage Machine." It's an unassuming, brushed-stainless steel, self-serve drink automaton with a touch screen that lets customers choose from a seemingly endless array of soft drinks -- orange Mello Yello, raspberry no-cal Powerade -- and an entertaining way to blow ten minutes picking a single drink.

Which I did. But then I turned to the real reason I'd come in. The three new summer salads at Noodles are Spinach & Fresh Fruit Salad, Chili-Lime Ginger Salad with Seared Chicken, and Backyard Barbecue Chicken Salad. They're each $7.75 -- more expensive than fast-food salads, but less than most full-service chains' salads -- and meal-sized if you are a light-to-moderate eater.

J. Wohletz
"The Space-Age Beverage Machine."
The Chili-Lime Ginger Salad with Seared Chicken was noticeably weightier than the other two because of the profusion of cold, marinated rice noodles -- noodles! -- on top, and it had about three ounces of well-seasoned -- read: not briny with too much salt -- flat-grilled chicken, whole-leaf spring mix lettuces, carrots, red peppers, zucchini, fresh-cut mint, peanuts and black sesame seeds, a sweet chili-lime-ginger dressing on the side, and also a container of...croutons?

The croutons were obviously made there, and weren't terrible by any means -- just out of context with the Asian-inspired nature of the salad. I later discovered that this salad is supposed to come with crispy wonton strips, not croutons, which makes more sense. But even with the croutons, I liked the salad. Everything was fresh, the vegetables were perfectly tender-crisp, and the dressing was a righteous combination of warm ginger and mild chili, tangy lime and possibly some rice wine vinegar. There was less chicken than other ingredients -- but then, chicken is more expensive than noodles, and Noodles probably thought no noodle-lover would mind. but all in all, the combo worked well.

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Nice article. Exactly what i hoped your column would be. Keep it up.

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