So I may be late to the party on this one….in fact the more I look back on it the more I wonder how many times did Noodles and Company have to pinch us before we decided not to come back?

Cross Contact Keeps Noodles’ Dishes From Being Free of Gluten

Our fondness for Noodles and Company began a few years ago. And we go there maybe two to three times a year…out of convenience.

Noodles and Company has some dishes that automatically use rice noodles, like the Pad Thai.  So when Emma successfully had buttered rice noodles with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top a few years back….we were happy.

Our first stray noodle in a GF Order- 2010

But slowly but surely, instead of a big slap in the face from Noodles (in other words a big bowl of gluteny noodles), we’ve been getting pinched little by little over finding an “extra” noodle that didn’t belong in her meal here and there. That should have been enough, but I kept hoping the next time it would be okay.  I know that’s wrong of me and Emma….So why did we do it?

Maybe we needed that one last thing to put the final nail in the coffin.

That was this weekend.  I ordered Emma’s noodles, the worker said “…you know we can’t guarantee that our noodles are gluten free”….and then puts the “allergy alert” on the order.  The gal asked if Emma wants a salad or soup and I said I didn’t know what else they had that would be gluten free.  So she told me the caesar salad was gluten free without the croutons.  So I ordered it for her, and the employee gave me a place mat that had information on nutrition and allergies for me to look over (more on that in a minute).

The employee brought out our food, including the “caesar salad– no croutons” she said…..and as I handed it over to Emma it looked just fine.  Not two minutes later Emma is eating it and discovers two good sized croutons hiding under the lettuce!  I was done. So frustrated I even forgot to take a picture.  I asked for a refund and instead I got a free entree coupon (to get me back- sigh).

Noodles’ Disclaimer

Back to the place mat that was given to me during the ordering process.  It lists its disclaimer about preparing gluten-free food as this:  “We sell noodles, and a lot of them, so we can’t guarantee that your food won’t come into contact with gluten, but we will do our best to accommodate your request.”  You can see the document here.  The document is carefully worded.  Never does it say the words “gluten-free”. It says “Watching Gluten?” as the title for that section and “does not contain gluten ingredients”  as opposed to saying gluten free.

It recommends if you are “trying to reduce gluten” to check out the list they have prepared, which includes buttered noodles with the rice noodles as an option, and it also lists the caesar salad with no croutons.    I just don’t understand what happened to the croutons.  If they leave them in the salad at all times then the salad will never be gluten free.  But if they added the croutons at the last minute, the croutons would not have been buried like they were.

I should know better.  I shouldn’t have taken Emma back there.  Lesson learned.  And in fact they did warn us.


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10 Responses to “Lesson Learned: No More Noodles & Co. for Us”

  1. We have tremendous luck at Noodles. I prefer some Noodles locations over others. We’ve only found 1 stray noodle in all the meals we’ve eaten there.

    Are there other locations avaialble to you? We would be lost without Noodles for a quick meal.

  2. Bummer! 🙁 Boo for Noodles. I love Noodles (though I rarely go anymore since the kids) and don’t have to watch Gluten, but boo on them. No they don’t say the food will be safe, but they lure you in on the idea…Boo on them! And they should have given you a refund.

  3. thanks for the warning. I haven’t eaten here since being diagnosed with CD, and needless to say, i don’t think I will go now. How unfortunate. I also heard that Olive Garden is BAD news.

  4. A lot of the problems like this (whether Noodles or elsewhere) is simply management staff that is too young and not focused on customer service. I always assume a restaurant can’t prevent cross-contamination 1005 and I am totally fine with a CYA statement. But if you have something like “Allergy Aware” in place while ordering, I would expect it to be honored. If a gluten noodle made it’s way in, I would certainly ask for a refund. I just don’t think managers/employees are always actually equipped to deal with customers on more than a basic ordering level. Maybe it’s that they don’t want to. We actaully moved across town two years ago and the thing I missed the most from our old neighborhood was the fantastic manager at the Noodles by our old house.

    This makes me really sad for Noodles because we really do use it as our go-to fast meal place.

  5. Wow. We had been avoiding Noodles because I was unsure about segregation of cooking pots, etc – when our daughter was diagnosed we were told in no uncertain terms to get rid of the colander – “you’ll never get all the spaghetti residue out of the little holes.”

    So I was avoiding N&C for that sort of reason – and here you are finding big wheaty chunks in the dish? No thanks.

    It’s a pity, because since, as you say, they already have dishes which should be gluten free from the start, they could do a really good GF job with a bit of kitchen segregation & training. Seems like something they could really capitalize on if they worked at it. But they’d have to win back a lot of trust, it seems.

  6. In all fairness they did warn you when you were ordering that they cannot guarentee that anything in their store will be 100% gluten free. YOU took that chance by going to a store that mainly sells NOODLES that contain GLUTEN. As far as I’m concerned Noodles and Company goes above and beyond what any other restaurants do to try to lessen the exposure of gluten to other ingredents, I haven’t seen any other restaurant do anything like this. I know for a fact that in the mornings when they are doing their prep that they cook all of the rice noodles that they use first followed by the noodles that contain gluten. As for “gluten allergy awares” for gluten free orders, they have to not only get a manager to ring it in, they also have to go get new sealed ingredents, wash their hands, put on new gloves, take a saute pan and spatula back to get washed. You just had a bad experiance at a particular store, I have never had a problem with the Noodles and Company that I go to, its all about the management and how well their kitchen staff is trained. But hey they did warn you when you were ordering, you took the chance.

  7. I like Noodles, but you can’t trust the soy sauce and the laid back folks who take your money

  8. I’ve eaten at Noodles five times. The first three times I didn’t get sick. The soy sauce didn’t taste all that good on the pad thai and that’s probably because it was gluten free soy sauce. The last two times the soy sauce tasted better than it should have tasted. I got sick both times, right on schedule for a lunch time meal. I was very clear every time that the soy sauce had to be gluten free, but teenagers at the cash register, how would they really know how important gluten free is to some folks.

  9. Gluten free soy sauce definitely tastes better than gluten soy sauce.
    Soy sauce was originally gf until westerners got a hold of it 😉

  10. I just want to say first and foremost that I’m not promoting the restaraunt in anyway. I am an employee at one of the many Noodles locations and yes I am ‘a teenager at the register’. However I’m also one of the cooks who deals with the mac, buttered noodles, etc.

    I understand the importance of keeping gluten-free dishes gluten-free, but please try not to blame the workers. I know not all the same methods at every Noodles stores are used, but at my store we’re now doing Gluten free dishes prepared separately so those noodles don’t even touch the same water that the other noodles do.

    There are three baskets that we use to dunk noodles to cook. Sometimes they leave a bit of residue f other noodles and they are very hard to catch. When i’m cooking the noodles, I make sure to tap out the baskets to make sure there arent any strays, however I am not implying that when someone doesn’t do this this means they just don’t care.

    During dinner/lunch rushes, we don’t always have the TIME to check! When you only have 3 baskets, 50 + dishes, and customers who get angry after only 7 minutes, it’s hard to keep everything balanced and segregated.

    Some employees may be lazy at certain places, but it doesn’t mean you should be discouraged. Not all teenage workers are lazy either, don’t let a stereotype you set up for yourself be the factor that drives you away. All but one teenager at my store works at least 30 hours a week while working hard in school/college.

    I understand your frustration in this happening multiple times, but have patience and if you truly wish to keep going to Noodles, then specify and ask the noodles to be cooked in separate water if they do not do so. Otherwise there are many other choices of places you can eat.

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