I would like to visit your restaurant. Can you tell me what menu items are vegan (no animal products)? Thank you for taking the time to research this.
Noodles and Co. reply:
Thank you for your inquiry. At Noodles [and] Company, we are always happy to accommodate special requests. Because some of our guests follow a vegan diet differently than others, we do not claim that any of our dishes meet these criteria. Additionally, please note that our “vegetarian” dishes may contain ingredients such as eggs and all dairy products.
The Japanese Pan Noodles, Bangkok Curry and Indonesian Peanut Sauté are considered vegetarian and do not contain eggs or dairy. They do however have some sugar in them if you wish to avoid that as well. The staff also has access to an Allergen Chart which lists our vegetarian dishes as well as ingredients such as eggs, dairy etc. Please check with them whenever you come in as they will have the most current information.
I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions.
I like that they are aware of the sugar issue. But I find it hard to believe that in order to get "the most current information," that requires customers to go to the store. A website, a centralized entity, can be updated much more easily than all of the literature for individual stores.
I attempted a follow-up (#2):
Thank you for your reply. Noodles and Co. is clearly aware of some of the difficulties of eating a vegan diet in a dining-out atmosphere, and that is encouraging. I am hoping you can confirm for me, without me having to take a trip to one of your stores only to be disappointed, if the three dishes you named (Japanese Pan Noodles, Bangkok Curry and Indonesian Peanut Sauté), currently have animal-derived ingredients other than the sugar you mentioned? Your time and help are greatly appreciated, and I would love to add Noodles and Co. to the small repertoire of vegan dining options.
Noodles and Co. response #2:
I appreciate your understanding. These dishes do not contain any dairy or eggs or any ingredients such as gelatin or fish sauce. The only menu items with any beef or chicken are found in our protein add-ons and we do not use any honey if you are concerned with that. I hope this helps! Are there any other ingredients you would be interested in?
Without berating poor Kara with all of the intricacies of food additives, it's difficult to make a determination without access to an ingredient list. Such is available in-store, but indirectly via the mouths of employees, according to Kara. My recommendation, if you don't mind making the trip and want further confirmation, is to ask an employee to read ingredients to you. Perhaps a printed-out copy of Kara's letter might be a good accompaniment in case an employee balks at that idea. Still, one would need to have memorized the additives here to make this work. It would be so much more helpful if the ingredients were available on their website, or even given to those who ask. I do think Kara herself did a good job working within what, I assume, are corporate guidelines for these situations.
Still, I decided to follow up (#3) with Kara, who has been receptive and helpful, thus giving me at the very least the illusion of feeling like my efforts are not falling on deaf ears:
I do wish a list of ingredients would be made available via the website. However, you have been very friendly and [accomodating] otherwise, which I appreciate, and I invite you to view my vegan dining blog where I have shared this information. It’s at http://veganmasterlist.blogspot.com/
(For the record, I follow up all conversations with an email of this type, thanking them and inviting the representative to view my post and assessment of their help. Exposing these results to the companies themselves is as important as any of the goals of this blog.)
Noodles and Co. reply #3:
I am sorry that I cannot provide you with an ingredients statement. Since we keep all our recipes secret we do not currently share that information with our guests.
I do hope that the information I was able to provide will help you with your decision. If you visit Noodles & Company in the future, I would still encourage you to ask for the allergen guide in case an ingredient has changed or that particular location is offering a new dish.
Thanks again for contacting us at Noodles & Company.
Ingredient lists and recipes are two very different things. Noodles and Co. should allow their customers to view ingredient lists.
Japanese Pan Noodles may be vegan except for traditionally-refined sugar
Bangkok Curry may be vegan except for traditionally-refined sugar
Indonesian Peanut Sauce may be vegan except for traditionally-refined sugar
Noodles and Co. was friendly, helpful, and responsive; however, to be vegan friendly they must provide customers with access to ingredient lists if they are unable to say positively whether items on their menu are vegan.