Fast food generally means hamburgers, fries and an assortment of fried, heavy, unhealthy food. In many cases, it means predictable heavy food that's not very good for you.
Recently, a new type of restaurant has emerged to offer better, healthier choices quickly and at a decent price.
Noodles & Company has opened a new location on Market Street in downtown Chattanooga. The chain of restaurants, which started in Denver in 1995, is built around some of the most popular pasta dishes from around the world prepared fresh and served quickly.
IF YOU GO
Where: Noodles & Company, 405 Market St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Price range: $4.50 for a small portion of pasta, soup or salad to less than $8 for sandwiches.
Noodles & Company breaks down its dishes into Mediterranean, American and Asian, offering everything from comfort food such as Wisconsin Macaroni and Cheese and Spaghetti and Meatballs to more exotic offerings such as Pasta Fresca and Bangkok Curry.
Any of the pasta dishes can be made more filling by adding steak, shrimp, chicken, meatballs or tofu.
Sandwiches also are offered along with soups and salads, and a side order of soup or salad can be added to your meal or sandwich for a dollar.
For those who are trying to watch their calorie intake, nutrition information is posted on the menu.
As a noodle shop conjures thoughts of Asian food for me, I chose a meal with a Far East flavor.
To start: the Thai Curry Soup based around a sweet yellow coconut curry broth with spinach, cabbage, mushrooms, tomato, red onion and rice noodles. The coconut milk made it a bit sweet at first, but the rice noodles and vegetables made it a light start to the meal.
For a main dish, the Japan Pan Noodles are one of the more popular Asian dishes. This dish is based on udon noodles prepared in soy sauce with cabbage, mushrooms, broccoli, sprouts and spices.
The addition of marinated steak strips made the soup and pasta into a complete meal without being too heavy.
The pasta and soup could have been a bit hotter when served, but for the most part it was a tasty meal presented well.
Meals are ordered at a counter like at most fast-food restaurants, but your food is prepared and served at the table to make the dining atmosphere a bit more like eating at a full-service eatery.
The staff are all friendly and knowledgable about what is a somewhat different menu concept and are willing to offer suggestions about how to order and what dishes diners may prefer.
The Chattanooga location of Noodles & Company is in a completely renovated space on the same block as several other restaurants in the busy Jack's Alley section.
With a totally new dining area and kitchen, naturally the area is clean and looks nice. Large picture windows make the dining area bright and inviting, and there's an outside dining area when the weather is pleasant.
Signs inside the store indicate the restaurant soon will offer full bar service as well.
Noodles & Company is a different concept in the Chattanooga area and not easily defined.
However, the food is fresh and prepared well, and it offers a change of pace when you're downtown and looking to try something different than the same old burger and fries.
It's worth checking out.
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...