Marshall V. King
Dining A La King
I never imagined Goshen’s Main Street would have an Asian noodle shop.
But Noodle Heads finally opened in early September and has been serving dishes such as pad thai and Korean chop chae.
It’s remarkable that Goshen has a Neapolitan pizza restaurant, a tapas bar, a European bakery and a bar that serves craft beer and organic food — all within a few blocks of each other.
Chef Kelly Graff announced this spring that she planned to open the noodle shop in addition to Kelly Jae’s Cafe and Kelly Jae’s Next Door. Graff is simply one of the area’s best chefs. Her restaurants are among the best in the area. She helped introduce tapas, or small plate dining, to the area and combined flavors from a variety of traditions.
People got excited when she said she’d be opening a restaurant aimed at a younger demographic, even college students.
There have been some bumps. Big ones.
The opening targeted for May ended up being in August and it was highly anticipated. People were curious and excited. There was a buzz.
After the first night of business, co-owner Elaine Laux and Graff made the call to close for several weeks to make the kitchen work better. And the result was that the restaurant could open for lunch sooner than the owners anticipated.
“It’s working well,” Laux said Friday, Nov. 1, during a busy night at Kelly Jae’s Next Door.
Once again, Graff is introducing a new concept and with it come some new processes for the customer.
You walk into Noodle Hoods and place your order at the register. You get a number and sit down in the dining room. And in a few minutes a huge bowl of noodles with a ladle in it is put in front of you.
You get utensils and condiments such as sriracha from a table and use them as needed. If you didn’t pay $2 or $3 for a soda or carton of water, you find a plastic cup and fill it from the pitcher of tap water on the counter outside the kitchen.
The whole experience is new and raises some questions.
Should you put money in the tip jar? If you use a credit card, you can’t add a tip, but there is a spot next to the register for cash. But if you don’t have a server, do you need to tip? Laux explained that the staff splits any tips and they appreciate any they get.
If the lone bottle of Huy Fong sriracha is on someone else’s table, what do you do?I politely asked if I could use it. This is more of a communal dining experience than most restaurants. So share and share alike.
Why is there a ladle in my noodles? The staff will tell you that it makes it easier to share the noodles or scoop them into a to-go container. But first I have to find a place to put it on the table. And why am I given a ladle but not a plate or bowl with which to share? It’s odd to be given a ladle, but not silverware. I’d put the ladles and extra plates on the table with the other utensils and condiments.
What about the drinks? Noodle Heads doesn’t offer wine or beer and that’s cool. Any restaurant wants to sell you things. And Noodle Heads is offering water in cartons that are more sustainable and green than plastic bottles. But I’d rather not pay for water. So I’ll keep tracking down tap water at Noodle Heads. If the restaurant offered funky drink options, rather than standard sodas, I’d consider paying.
Will there be half portions?Not at this point, said Laux. The noodle dishes are $10 to $14. They can be one giant portion or enough for several meals, depending how hungry you are. But at lunch, there should be half portions or two sizes of portions. I’d rather pay $7 for a half portion than $15 (with tax) and then have to schlep food to a fridge before I get it home that night.
Is every dish spicy? No. The menu board lists the level of spice. For someone who isn’t a fan of spice, the options can seem sparse. I’d love to be able to order any of the noodle dishes and pick a spice level the way you can at many restaurants that feature southeast Asian flavors.
How are the flavors? They’re coming along. A Hoisin chicken special last week was nice. The Korean chop chae, curry shrimp noodles and pad thai all have nice balance, but you’ve got to like spice. The pork belly ramen needs more flavor. The restaurant is new and evolving. The flavors will get there. Remember that Graff is a great chef and will continue to play with the flavors.
Is the restaurant expensive? It depends whom you ask. The owners point to the portion size and how people are sharing dishes. Some customers have had sticker shock and told me they won’t go back. The ingredients are quality and the preparations are interesting. I trust Graff enough and her staff and like the concept, but there’s little way to avoid a pricey lunch or dinner at Noodle Heads.
Noodle Heads is good and has the potential to be great. Graff and Laux are introducing something new. Diners are learning and adjusting. The restaurant is evolving. There was a buzz about its opening. That’s gone. But the potential to get it back is still there.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
If you go
What: Noodle Heads
Where: 127 S. Main St., Goshen
Fare: Asian noodles and dumplings
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 4:30 to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 4:30 to 8 Friday.
If you go: Credit cards accepted, no smoking, handicapped accessible, banquet room available, carry out available.