Thursday, November 19, 2009

My happy place is now open

11 years ago, I arrived in Madison for law school.  I only knew one other person in town, as luckily a good college friend was beginning grad school at the same time.  Law school itself wasn't particularly stressful for me (I actually really enjoyed it), but living in a town I didn't know and the whole working 3 jobs and still being broke while wracking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt thing was a bit overwhelming at times.  So I needed a happy place, and preferably one that didn't cost a lot.

And what did I find?  Noodles & Company.*  Noodles: good.  Pasta is my go-to food in pretty much all situations.  Big bowls of food for $5: good.  I could still go out to dinner with friends without breaking the bank.  Or after a long, stressful day of visiting clients in prison, I could just stop on the way home and pick up an order without feeling like I was wasting money because I could make that one bowl into two meals.

And it could suit any mood.  Tired, cold, or in some other way needing comfort food, there's Mac and Cheese.  Feeling nihilistic and hopeless, aka like a Russian, there's mushroom stroganoff.  Wanting something simple, light, and uncomplicated, there's buttered noodles and parmesan, always with bright, happy carrots and broccoli added in.  Or there was my old stand-by for good days, the sesame seared lo mein (sadly no longer on the Noodles & Co menu). 

Not to overstate matters, Noodles & Company got me through those law school years.

Then, I moved down to Kansas, to the land of no noodles.  Every visit up north, I worked in a trip to a Noodles when I could.  Until the happy day about 5 years ago when two Noodles finally hit the KC area.  Then I found myself somewhat frequently in need of a trip to that Olathe shopping area.  I developed the bad habit of ordering two bowls: one for now and one to go, because I couldn't waste a trip to Noodles. 

A year and a half ago,  I heard the first rumor that Noodles would finally hit Lawrence, but nothing came of it.  Until this spring, we once again heard that a downtown store would be closing and the most likely replacement would be Noodles & Company.  Most people around here were sad to see the store close, but I was just happy.  Noodles & Company just blocks from my house?  Could it really be?  I soon discovered another Noodle-holic, my friend J, who also went to law school in a Noodle zone.

For months now, we've been watching the development.  Official store closing signs.  Official confirmation that Noodles would be the new tenant.  Then the work inside the store.  New awnings.  A "coming soon" sign.  Then an actual sign.  Then booths and tables and big menu boards inside the store.  I stalked the website, waiting for a press release announcing the new store.  And two happy weeks ago, we finally saw the date: Opening 11/20.  J and I immediately made plans to meet for dinner on that Friday.  Then the press release informed us there would be a special event tonight, a fundraiser for the local high school.  Our date moved up one night.

And now in just one short hour, I will be entering my happy place, just blocks from my house.  The only question left is what my first order will be.  If I were a betting woman, I'd put my money on my ultimate comfort food: Wisconsin Mac & Cheese.

*Noodles & Company has paid me nothing for this post.  I don't think they even know I exist.  I really am just the biggest Noodles addict ever.  But I will happily take a free bowl of noodles if they want to offer it to me.


Patricia said...

Here in AA, our little family also went out to eat tonight. The kids happily split an oozing, wonderfully cheesy bowl of Wisconsin Mac & Cheese.

Poor Taco Bell is going to be getting less business, I expect.

S said...

Indeed. I feel very bad for poor Taco Bell! ;)

But now you know that you don't have to count on a trip to N&C the next time I visit.

The mac and cheese was so yummy.

Language Lover said...

Dang, that was a good endorsement. I want some! But they don't have any in New England :(

Lisa Johnson said...

I hope they learn that you exist and give you all the free food you can handle! ; )

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