In case you missed it, here’s my review of Marina’s Noodle Bar that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.
One of the best-kept secrets among local foodies is the Noodle Bar empire. For those of you not in the know, the Noodle Bar is a tiny shop in Seaside offering a bevy of noodle fare, from dry noodle bowls to noodle soups to chow mein.
About a year ago, they opened a second restaurant in Marina serving up the same menu, but in far more spacious accommodations.
Somehow, in the last month I’ve been to the Marina Noodle Bar more times than I’d been for the past year. And every time I go, I seem to run into someone I know — looks like the locals are on to my secret dinner spot!
Well, rightly so — the Noodle Bar might be the best food bargain on the Monterey Peninsula. Nothing on the menu costs more than $10 and most dishes cost just $5.50 for a heaping plate of food.
As always, I started off dinner with an order of egg rolls (4 for $5.50). The thin wrapper was fried just enough to be crispy, but not greasy, with a light crunch to each bite that revealed the tender filling inside. I usually go for the pork egg rolls, but the last couple of times, I’ve ordered vegetarian. Both are very tasty — so much so that I always have to restrain myself from just eating order after order of egg rolls!
Noodle Bar is very accommodating with off-menu requests. Want your food served over chow mein noodles instead of rice? Ask for it — it’s just a dollar extra. Want extra protein? Add extra meat or tofu to your dish for just $1.50. I’ve taken to adding tofu to my dishes.
On my most recent visit, I ordered the five-spiced chicken dry noodle bowl (regular for $5.50, large for $6.50), and added tofu to give it a little more protein. The juicy chicken was seasoned with a nice blend of sweet, savory and spicy. The noodles were light and fresh, not gummy or heavy. The tofu added a nutty flavor to the spiced chicken. (But just a word of warning — while the tofu was a nice addition to a dry noodle bowl, I’ve found out the hard way it might not be the best with the chow mein. It’s a texture thing — the porous tofu didn’t quite work with the crispy chicken and tender noodles.)
I finished up dinner with an avocado smoothie ($3.50). I know what you’re thinking, and honestly, I was skeptical at first, too. I’m eating — or rather sipping — those words now. Sure, it might not look all that pretty — ranging from green to gray in color, depending on the ripeness of the avocado — but the buttery avocado makes for a velvety smoothie that has such a unique flavor.
Despite cheap prices and large to-go business, Noodle Bar didn’t skimp on service. The servers were always friendly, patient and attentive. From free smoothie samples to tips on food, they knew how to take care of hungry customers all while turning tables over quickly in the hustle and bustle of the dinnertime rush.
Noodle Bar is a refreshing alternative to the fast-food joints in the area — you can pick up a quick, cheap meal here without that side of guilt from fast-food chains.
And keep an eye out for the Banh Mi Bar opening across from the Marina Noodle Bar later this month and serving up a variety of Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. If their two restaurants are any indication, we can look forward to great meals that are easy on the pocketbook at the Banh Mi Bar as well.
Noodle Bar Restaurant, 215 Reservation Road, Suite E, Marina. Info: 384-6225, www.yelp.com/biz/noodle-bar-restaurant-marina.