This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Anna, winner of the FREE noodle bowls. Keep reading for the scoop on this new, family-friendly West Hartford eatery.
We love being the first to tell you about fun BRAND NEW places to go with your kids, but we REALLY love being able to send you there for FREE! Today’s post is all about Noodles & Company, the unique, family-friendly restaurant–a Parents magazine pick for Best Family Restaurants 2011–that has just opened its doors (not even two weeks ago!) in Bishops Corner in West Hartford, Connecticut.
I took my crew there just days after the opening to see how this creative eatery stacks up against some of our other Tiny Dining faves. Read on for the result, PLUS a chance to win SIX FREE NOODLE BOWLS!
Not only is this the first Connecticut location of Noodles & Company, but the first NEW ENGLAND location! How cool is that? And they’ve picked a great spot to set up shop. It’s super easy to find since it’s located in Bishops Corner, across North Main Street from the plaza with the Whole Foods. There is tons of free parking right out front. Free and convenient parking always makes me happy 🙂
First, the basics. This is one of those hybrid kind of eating establishments where you order at the counter, but then you’re served at your table. Personally, I think this is THE BEST arrangement for dining out with little kids. The service is much faster than at a sit-down restaurant, but you also don’t have to carry your own tray full of food + drink + diaper bag + small child + drag a high chair to your table.
So here, you enter the order line on the left as you walk through the front door. You can’t miss it thanks to the giant wall-mounted menu.
I know it’s ridiculous, but sometimes wall-mounted menus make me anxious, just because I feel like I am blocking everyone’s view while I try to figure out what the heck I want to order. Happily, there is also a bin with a stack of double-sided paper menus right beside the big menu board, so you can peruse that way if it makes you more comfortable.
And if all else fails, there is still a menu right above the counter where you order, so you get three tries to figure out what to eat 🙂
For noodles, there are a lot of choices including American, Asian, and Mediterranean style dishes. The pricing is really reasonable too, ranging from about $5 to $8 per dish.
Now, pay attention so you can order your noodles like a pro and not look like a confused newbie (like me) on your first visit. You choose your type of noodles from the illustrated options displayed on the right (1), you decide if you want a regular or small size (2), and then (optional) you choose your protein (i.e. meat or tofu) from the list on the left (3).
Got it? Great!
So once you’ve placed your order, you can take a seat at any open table. There are booths, freestanding tables, and also those table/booth combos.
You can find a stash of high chairs and booster seats around the corner from the drink machine.
Now let’s talk about that drink machine for a minute. This thing is seriously out of The Jetsons (am I dating myself with that reference?). Perhaps I am living under a rock, but I have never seen one before. Fortunately, hubby is very well-versed in modern soda fountain technology.
Basically, you can create any kind of soda you can imagine. I just wanted a plain ol’ Diet Coke and there were still like, 12 options for adding flavors to it. Obviously, Boo doesn’t drink soda yet, but imagine how much of a treat it will be to bring older kids here so they can be totally in control of their soda universe. He is going to love it.
Of course, if soda chemistry isn’t your thing, there are special adult beverages too.
Back to the table. When you order, you’ll get a number to display on your table.
Boo is, sadly, anti-high chair all the way now. So it’s booths for us (at least we can fence him in). Here he is just chillin’, waiting for his noodles.
He was also super serious about his milk drinking today. But hey, whatever keeps him occupied 🙂
Barely five minutes after we sat down, our food arrived. I ordered the small size of the Japanese Pan Noodles with steak.
Hubby ordered the regular size of the Indonesian Peanut Sauté with chicken (p.s. definitely spicy!).
Here’s a side-by-side of our dishes, so you can (kind of) see the size difference between Regular and Small.
For Boo, we went with our old standby: spaghetti and meatballs.
There isn’t a traditional kids’ menu here, but there are several options that will please kiddie palettes like the spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce, the mac & cheese, and the buttered noodles. There is also an array of non-noodle options, like flatbread sandwiches, entrée salads, and soups.
Another thing that is SUPER about the Noodles & Company menu, is that they list the calories for each dish right on the menu. I really appreciate that. I think eating out is so much healthier when you can make informed decisions about your meal. Some days you may feel like a splurge, but other days you may want to trim the calories. Noodles & Company makes it really easy to stick to a diet and still have something delicious.
Of course, if you can’t finish it all, there are to-go containers conveniently located next to the drink dispensers.
Oh, one tip about the napkins: with your food, you’ll get utensils wrapped in a single napkin. If your family is anything like my family, that napkin will last for about 15 seconds. There aren’t any napkin dispensers around, so make sure to ask the person who brings out your food if you can have some extra napkins. That way you aren’t frantically waving down someone behind the counter while milk is dripping off the table 🙂
A quick peek at the restrooms. I can only speak for the ladies room, but it is a family-style, single restroom with a wall-mounted changing table. Those are the best, especially when you have more than one kiddo to keep track of. (Who knew that one day I would actually have a rating system for public bathrooms!)
When you’re done, you just leave everything on the table and the staff of Noodles & Company will take care of it. Super simple!
The verdict? The food was delicious. I certainly didn’t feel like I was eating at a “fast food” restaurant. And the service was fast and friendly. Just the right combination of self-serve and wait staff to make things quick and convenient. This is definitely a place where you can feel comfortable bringing kids of any age, from babies in carriers, to toddlers who like to “experiment” with their food, to older kids who will love selecting their own custom noodle bowl from the menu choices and mixing up their fantasy soda drink.
My last tip: go early. Not surprisingly, this place is quickly becoming a popular spot in town. And it’s well worth dining on the early side to avoid a lengthy wait in line.
Ready to give it a try? How’d you like to win 6 FREE noodle bowls? See details below. Please note: this is a local Connecticut giveaway; it is only open to Connecticut residents.
- PRIZE: Six (6) coupons for a free regular-size bowl of noodles at the Bishops Corner, West Hartford, CT Noodles & Company ONLY (not valid at other locations).
- NUMBER OF WINNERS: One (1)
- TO ENTER: Leave a comment with the words “Noodles & Company” and tell us your best tip for dining out with little ones. Please make sure to leave your email address when you comment so that we can contact you if you are the winner. The email addresses that are collected for this giveaway will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner and will never be distributed or sold. Entries submitted without a valid email address will not be considered valid entries and will be excluded from the drawing. Only one (1) contest entry per household.
- TIMING: The giveaway starts NOW and ends at 11:59 PM EDT on Monday, October 29, 2012. One (1) winner will be selected at random from all valid entries. The winner will be notified via email and announced on Facebook. Please make sure you check your junk mail folder.
- No purchase is necessary to win. Odds of winning are based on the number of entries. This contest is open to Connecticut residents 18 and older. The free noodle bowl coupons are valid only at the West Hartford (Bishops Corner) Noodles & Company location.
333 North Main Street, West Hartford, CT 06117 (Bishops Corner)
Phone: (860) 206-9986
Get directions here:
Sunday-Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Tips & Things to Bring:
- Go early, especially on weekends, to avoid a lengthy wait in the order line.
- The restaurant is stroller-accessible, and the order line is wide enough to accommodate most strollers.
- Ask for extra napkins! I didn’t see any napkin dispensers anywhere.
- I know it can be a touchy subject, but the Noodles & Company policy is that tipping is not necessary.
- Click here for the full menu.
- Don’t forget to sign up for their E-Club to receive special notice of events and discounts!
- Restroom: family-style with changing station.
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