I like to be able to have a couple of fallback places to go for a healthy, quick meal where I feel confident that I can eat safely. My two standard fallbacks are Chipotle, and Noodles & Company. It may seem a bit unusual that one can eat gluten-free at a noodle place, but it is actually pretty easy, and I have done it numerous times.
Noodles & Company is a fast-food restaurant chain located throughout the US that offers noodles based on Asian, Mediterranean and American influences. They also offer hearty salads that can be prepared gluten-free. Their web site provides a chart which illustrates exactly what dishes contain gluten and the major allergens. They also have this chart available at restaurant locations, just ask the cashier when you go to order.
In looking at the chart it may look like there is nothing for us gluten-free eaters except the Pad Thai, but that is because these items are made with gluten noodles. If you ask to replace the noodles that typically come with these dishes, with the rice noodles used with the Pad Thai, you can easily enjoy several noodle dishes, which include*:
- Pasta Fresca
- Penne Rosa
- Pasta Cavatappi
- Whole Grain Tuscan Linguine
- Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce
- Buttered Noodles
- Pad Thai
*Be sure to order the above dishes with rice noodles.
The following salads can also be made gluten-free:
- Chinese Chopped Salad (no wonton strips, with fat-free Asian dressing)
- The Med Salad (no noodles)
- Caesar Salad (no croutons)
- Tossed green salad (no croutons, with fat-free Asian dressing)
- Cucumber Tomato side salad
As far as their proteins/meats, the sautéed beef, braised beef and sautéed shrimp are gluten-free. While tofu is usually gluten-free, it is not here, because of how it is prepared. If you are a vegetarian like me, I will order extra veggies with my Pasta Fresca with rice noodles. It is extremely easy to have a satisfying gluten-free and/or vegetarian meal here. My young daughter also loves going here, and sees it as a treat, so we typically have mom-daughter lunch dates here.
The cashiers have all seemed knowledgeable at the many Noodles & Company locations I have been to, and are more than happy to help answer any questions. Be sure to tell them you have to stay away from gluten, and they will mark it on the order. They will mark it “allergy aware” from the register. The rice noodles are made in a separate pot as the wheat-based noodles, and I have never had a problem. Noodles & Company has definitely made it easy to be able to eat a healthy, quick meal without having to spend 15 minutes holding up the line and explaining what my food needs are. I have only had positive experiences here.
*Please note that any time you eat in a facility that handles gluten, there is risk of cross-contamination.