I couldn’t be more thrilled that the low-carb craze of yesteryear has died down enough to make way for a restaurant like the seriously starchy Wild Noodles. A franchise-based chain, this fast casual eatery specializes in pasta in its various forms, even adding noodles to salad entrees. This place is not a friend to Dr. Atkins or his followers, however it is a proud pal to vegans and vegetarians in the Middle Tennessee area. The menu, according to Wild Noodles’ website, is:
Rich and flavorful comfort foods. Dishes light, yet delectable. A selection certain to satisfy every craving. The idea behind Wild Noodles is so simple, yet the restaurant and its fare are unexpected and unique. American, Asian and Italian favorites are created when ordered and not a moment before, ensuring freshness and flavor beyond compare each and every time. And it’s all so very fast and affordable.
Wild Noodles offers up pasta dishes from around the globe, so long as you aren’t actually a world traveler. The Asian, Italian and American choices are tasty and made with fresh-tasting ingredients, but I wouldn’t exactly consider their offerings ethnic in any way. There is a pad thai option as well as a chicken teriyaki for the Asian-inspired flavors, and penne with 12-hour marina or spaghetti and meatballs for the Italian dishes. Wild Noodles makes ordering easy with large menus printed in big type on the walls as you enter the store. There is plenty of room in front of the wall menus allowing novice Wild Noodlers to languish while they decide on what to eat. There are lots of vegetarian options, many of them dairy-free and egg-free. Every single option on the Asian menu is vegan to start with, though you can add shrimp, beef or chicken if you desire. Tofu is an option in many of Wild Noodle’s bowls.
Once you’ve made your pick you slide over to the cash register where a decidedly disheveled-looking employee will take your order. Maybe. The first time I set foot in Wild Noodles, I walked right back out jut 7 or so minutes later. I used the handy menus on the wall to make my selection, then waited for many minutes while the young lady behind the counter sat on the phone. Whatever her call was about seemed very urgent, but no communication at all from her while I stood waiting in line made me think I might need more than an hour for my lunch break, so I left. I’m glad I gave it another shot, because subsequent visits there were a pleasure.
My first meal there was the Thai Rice Noodles, which were delicious in every way. The noodles were perfectly cooked–no too hard and not too mushy–and the hoisin sauce was light and delectable. The veggies were crisp and fresh tasting and the tofu I added was nice and firm. The kitchen is open so I was able to watch as the line cook worked up my giant rice noodle dish. Asking for a to-go box when you order isn’t a bad idea, as the portions are gigantic. The pasta dishes range in price from $6-$10, but you really get what you pay for, and the taste is as good (maybe better than) as what you’d find in a fern bar type place. Also, adults can order smaller sized pasta from the kid’s menu, but be warned children’s meals come with tasty little fried sugar wontons, so the portion isn’t that much smaller if you can’t resist the sweet crisps, which I cannot.
After placing your order, asking for a box and checking out the cook’s line, you grab a seat in the open, never too crowded dining room. A staff member will bring your dish soon after it is ready, which is no time at all. There is a modern look to the furniture and lighting, but it’s attractiveness is lessened when you discover many of the surfaces are sticky. Some tables look dirty, as if the dishes were cleared but the wiping forgotten. Luckily it’s not too disgusting to negate going back.
While there are tons of vegetarian and vegan options at Wild Noodles, I’m sorry to say they don’t offer whole wheat noodles. Rice noodles, penne noodles, udon and fettucine, but none that have a significant amount of fiber. Carb comas are a distinct possibility after a stop at Wild Noodles. But everything I tried there was good–the marinara sauce was hearty and rich, the Bangkok Peanut was solid and the hoison sauce just wonderful. Did I mention the sugared wontons? As far as drinks, there is beer available, which is a big plus for those weekend visits, but go ahead and splurge on the bottled water, as they’ll charge you for water from the fountain anyway.
Overall, I highly recommend Wild Noodles to vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Nothing beats a steaming bowl of pasta, and Wild Noodles has got that in spades. Check it out at 400 Cool Spring Blvd in Franklin. I wouldn’t say it’s worth a trip all the way from Nashville, but if you work in the area or are getting your shop on, then this is a fine place to patronize. Carbs ahoy, mateys.