Busy strip centers likely will be at the top of Merola's list, but he hasn't named a location for Kansas City's first outpost of the 9-year-old restaurant chain, which has 82 locations in 9 states.
Ordering pad Thai at a restaurant like the Arun Thai Place Grill is one thing, but Kansas City diners were resistant to another "international house of pasta" concept. Semolina, a full-service restaurant that offered a range of middlebrow versions of ethnic and home-style noodle dishes, bombed in the suburbs a few years ago. The Overland Park Semolina is now Hannah Bistro (7070 West 105th Street).
Noodles & Company restaurants aren't full-service operations, though. Diners order at a counter and "within three to five minutes, someone brings your dinner to you," company spokesperson Kelly Pascal Gould says. "And we use real china bowls and real metal flatware."
That's a plus -- I believe that locals finally said chop phooey to the Minneapolis-based Leeann Chin restaurants not only because the food stunk but also because it wasn't easy to eat orange beef with plastic forks.
"I think Noodles & Company has done a great job in taking the quick-casual concept a step further from what most diners envision as fast food," Merola says. "And we offer a broad range of noodle dishes, from spicy ethnic fare to comfort food like macaroni and cheese."
The real draw will probably be the prices, which start at about $5.50 for a basic pad Thai or pasta fresca and can get more expensive with additional add-ons, such as grilled chicken ($1.75), organic tofu ($1.45), chopped red peppers or broccoli (75 cents each).
Not all the choices are cosmopolitan in flavor. There are two kinds of dessert: Rice Krispies Treats and cookies. What, no Frosty?