Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Noodles and Co.

Help, please...

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:
Dear Erin,
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):
Dear Kara,
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:
Hi Erin,
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:
Dear Kara,
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/
Thanks again,

(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.

The verdict:
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.


Tina said...

Thank you for researching and posting this Restaurant Master List! I've been a vegetarian for 15 years, and am now a vegan- I had no idea how many foods have animal ingredients in them.
Informing these companies that you will be posting their responses, hopefully, makes them feel more responsible for sending you correct information...

Arun said...

I live in columbus and was informed by the Noodles and co. employee that the Bangkok curry has fish derived ingredients in it.

Anonymous said...

An employee was nice enough to show me the allergen list.
If you count sugar as being non vegan, the only thing you can eat at Noodles and co is the Pesto cavatappi without the cream and cheese.
The tofu has sugar in it!goodness knows why!
Every other pasta dish has some sugar in it.
All the other dishes(if you don't mind the sugar)can be made vegan by removing the dairy.
There was something questionable with the Asian dish, but I don't quite remember, might have been the fish sauce like the like person mentioned.

emily said...

Hello :)

I work at Noodles & Company, and I just wanted to say that the Bangkok Curry does NOT have fish derived ingredients! Whoever told you this was mistaken. I'm sure that they were thinking of the Pad Thai. The Pad Thai sauce contains fish oil.

Also, just to clarify...the reason the tofu is listed as containing sugar is because it is sauteed with the sauce we use in the Japanese Pan Noodles. The sauce contains sugar :)

And lastly, I just wanted to warn you that even if you hold the cream and the cheese, the Pesto Cavatappi is NOT VEGAN. The pesto sauce itself contains Parmesan cheese.

I'm not vegan, or even vegetarian. But I just happened to find this post, and figured I'd clarify some things. Hope this helps!

If anyone has any other questions, feel free to ask.


bludge24 said...

Don't forget that the Caesar Salad dressing has ground anchovies in it... I'm a Shift Manager at one of their restaurants btw.

bludge24 said...

Of course, you cannot be completely certain of cross-contamination, but if you're looking to take that chance, you can let the ambassador(cashier) know you're Vegan or allergic to any of our vegetables, unable to consume alcohol for any reason(wine in Penne Rosa, Pesto Cavatappi, Whole Grain Tuscan Linguine and Pasta Fresca - the latter, of which wine is incorporated into the Fresca Sauce), the all-too-important Gluten allergy, or any other reasonably specific request, and they will actively communicate the request with all other Team Members that will come in contact with the dish, as well as the request being typed into the register screen for the Kitchen and FOH to see(a fresh pan, fresh gloves, fresh noodles and a fresh spatula will result.) And the Pad Thai sauce, NOT the Coconut Curry sauce, contains oyster sauce, I believe, but no fish sauce in the Coco Curry sauce. We use Soybean Oil to season the pan before every dish(except American). We follow H.A.C.C.P. procedure to maintain all food temperatures.

Tracy Warner said...

I'm curious-- I was looking at their website, and the coconut curry has like 9 grams of protein in it without any tofu added-- where does all this protein come from?

KayteeC said...

I'm an employee of Noodles and Company. According to our records, the Bangkok Curry does not have fish, but it does have cream. The Japanese Pan Noodles, Indonesian Peanut Saute, Pasta Fresca (without cheese), Penne Rosa (without cream & cheese), Whole Grain Tuscan Linguini (without cheese and cream), Spaghetti (without cheese), Chinese Chop Salad (without wontons) are all vegan, with the exception of the sugar problem. The Pesto Cavatappi is NOT vegan and has cream even in the pesto sauce. I hope this helps.

Denise said...

Short version, i went to a noodles & company, ordered the japenese pan noodles, after two bites, i had a life threatening reaction, i have seen an allergist, and i am not allergic to anything on the list of ingredients I received from the corporate office, it was ny first and last time eating there. And I am not recommeding the restaurant to anyone I know. Word of caution, be careful, be very careful.

Samantha said...

I'm very new to being vegan - can someone tell me what is so bad about the sugar? I assume it's just cane sugar? Thanks :)

Erin said...

Samantha, white sugar is refined with bone char.

John said...

I love the Thai curry soup until I found out it has dairy in it. I'm so disappointed. The worst part is I don't know what is dairy in the soup. No where in the ingredients does it say milk. Any help?

Holli Kendall said...

John... I just found out the same thing about the curry soup. Very disappointing, especially since I was previously told that it was vegan. It is also really irritating that dairy is even being put into such a soup, as it is completely unnecessary. Curry should be made with coconut, not dairy milk!

I just wrote to them and let them know this.

Noodles and Co. is off my list now, though. It was only a desperation stop anyway, not a preferred restaurant.

Annie said...

I am very confused. The Pad Thai page on the web site shows the "vegetarian" symbol and even says meat and fish free right on the web page. But then, if you go into the nutritional information, it shows fish as an allergen in the dish. I ordered it based on the main page saying meat and fish free, but then could immediately taste fish in the very first bite. Since I am allergic to seafood, I didn't eat anther bite and then looked it up on the site nutritional information. I am very thankful that I haven't had a reaction! Why on earth would they call it vegetarian if it contains fish??!