The region will soon have another fast casual dining option on its plate when the eagerly-anticipated Noodles & Company officially opens in Bishops Corner on Wednesday.
Franchise owner Robert Barton, a former owner of Five Guys in Avon and Farmington, is excited to bring this new dining adventure to the area. As part of the new restaurant's staff training, VIP receptions were held on Sunday and Monday, open to those who had registered with the company's E-Club.
"Day number one, and we're serving very well," Barton said just after the busy lunch crowd had finished eating on Sunday afternoon. "It's a very complex operation."
Customers order at the counter from an extensive menu, and wait staff brings the meal to your table. Takeout will also likely be a popular option, for West Hartford residents as well as those passing through Bishops Corner en route back home to the Farmington Valley at the end of the work day.
Barton was impressed with the Noodles & Company brand when he was looking to diversify from the burger business. He liked the fact that the company has been identified as one of the top 10 fastest growing restaurant chains in the country.
The Avon resident also thinks West Hartford is the the perfect place to introduce the brand, and favored the Bishops Corner location in the revitalized Marshall's Plaza right on the busy Albany Ave. thoroughfare.
The menu includes a selection of noodle dishes (of course!), highlighting American, Asian, and Mediterranean cuisines. There are also soups from each region as well as salads and sandwiches. The restaurant serves beer and wine as well.
Meals are prepared quickly – although Barton said that the saute dishes take a bit longer than the noodles-only options – and can easily be customized.
"If you want Chicken Parmesan diced up and added to your tomato bisque, we can do that," said Barton. "You can change the sauce, change the veggies, you can really do whatever you want," he said.
Although there's a small cost for additional items, substitutions are free of charge.
Most of the dishes look to be very healthy based on the posted calorie counts and combination of fresh ingredients, and many are available as vegetarian selections. It's easy too look past the calories, though, when faced with the option of a steaming bowl of "Wisconsin Mac & Cheese" (go ahead and add the oven-roasted meatball, too) on a cold night.
The West Hartford location will also be a test site for some "limited time offers," including a pork dish that will soon be on the menu. Barton said the more successful dishes become permanent menu items. "They're constantly testing at different company stores," he said.
For diners requiring gluten-free options or those with other food allergies, Noodles & Company provides an online Allergen Guide.
West Hartford residents Steve Allen, his 9-year-old daughter Rebecca Allen, and Chloe and Jonathan Deutsch happened to be sitting together at a table enjoying lunch during Sunday's VIP event. Both families had visited Noodles & Company restaurants while traveling in Wisconsin and were excited to have one open here.
Rebecca Allen was enjoying a large bowl of Mac & Cheese, which she pronounced, "Good!" Chloe Deutsch said her Buttered Noodles with Meatballs was, "Definitely different from anything I've tasted – good different!" Steve Allen liked his Japanese Pan Noodles, and Jonathan Deutsch said his Steak Stroganoff was "not at all like fast food."
And in addition to satisfying the appetites of the region's carb-lovers, the West Hartford restaurant has brought new jobs to the area. Barton said he has hired 42 new employees, a mixture of full-time and part-time positions. Kevin Seeman is the general manager.
"We have a lot of high school kids, but you need the right mix betwen young and older – the right synergy," Barton said. Some have food industry experience, and he said it was great to find some staff members who had "worked in a kitchen with a sense of urgency."
Noodles & Company is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. To preview the restaurant's menu, click here.