On their website, they've clearly laid out nutritional information, any notable allergens in each of the dishes, and this very helpful sorter, which shows, among other things, which dishes are vegan or vegan-izable. Of the many things on their menu, there are seven options for vegans (some that require modification) - Chinese chop salad, Indonesian peanut sauté, Japanese pan noodles, pasta fresca, penne rosa, spaghetti, and whole grain Tuscan linguine. Tofu can be added to any dish, and they use organic tofu, which I appreciate.
The atmosphere is clean, airy, and informal. The general tone is similar to other fast casual chains like Panera, Sharkey's, or Baja Fresh. By the drink area, they have bottles of Sriracha, and a stack of paper takeout containers.
I ordered the peanut sauté, which is vegan by default, and comes with a pile of rice noodles, stir-fried with broccoli, carrots, cabbage, sprouts, cilantro, crushed peanuts, lime, and added tofu. I ordered the regular size, but I could have easily done the small instead, because the portions are very large. (I took at least half home in a takeout container. That's for the best, since I noticed later that a regular size is 830 calories and contains 2030 mg of sodium!) I was impressed that the sauce was actually spicy. Often in chain restaurants, the dishes are made on the blander side to suit a variety of tastes. The flavor was nutty with a noted stickiness, and the tofu was crisp. I wouldn't say that I was blown away by the dish, but it was pretty good.
My husband's pasta fresca contained penne with roasted garlic, red onion, tomatoes, spinach, and added tofu, and tossed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and white wine. (It generally comes with parmesan or feta, and of course, he requested no cheese.) The dish was mild but basic. It reminded me of a well done version of the vegan meal on an international flight. I think it could be improved with sliced olives and artichoke hearts for a little pizzazz.
In summation, I liked that the employees were warm and helpful and that they've made it easy on their website and nutritional information to know your options. I could see it being a place that would be easy to take kids, because of the laidback atmosphere that's not at all stuffy. I don't think Noodles & Company is a place that I'll be visiting regularly, but it's a welcome option for a quick lunch when guests of varying tastes come into town.Pros: clearly labeled vegan options, good road trip option, inexpensive
Cons: Oily, salty, and highly caloric, Some dishes are bland