Lemme tell ya something about me and noodles: we go way back. Spaghetti as a kid, ramen as a teen, buckwheat soba, egg noodles, linguine, fusilli, yakisoba. I once ate so many vermicelli rice noodles that I threw up. I’m not bragging, I just want you to know who you’re dealing with here: I know my noodles.
So What Makes a Great Noodle?
Assuming that we’re sticking with some sort of flour-based outcome and thus disregarding the awesome wonder of paleo raw zucchini noodles for the sake of this article (which is exactly what I’m doing), then I’m going to venture an opinion that noodle greatness comes down to the Two T’s: Taste and Texture.
Taste is obvious; if a noodle isn’t delicious, why waste a week’s worth of carb intake? But let’s face it, there are many foods in the world that taste as good as a great noodle, but there are few that feel as good to eat. It’s the utterly beguiling form and texture of the noodle that has kept us coming back and subjecting our beleaguered bellies to wheat-bloat for gazillions of years.
And it is the texture of the noodle that is the linchpin of every great (and terrible) noodle eating experience. It’s the most difficult aspect of noodle making to master and the easiest to screw up. We’ve all had noodle and pasta dishes that leave much to be desired: undercooked generic-noodles with not an ounce of love or flavor in them; overcooked, falling apart mush piles that virtually scream out, “I tried!”; and lest we forget, since this is Frugal Portland, ridiculously overpriced and fancifully named pasta and noodle dishes that come in portion sizes that wouldn’t satisfy the average toddler.
Noodle Nirvana: Frank’s Noodle House (822 NE Broadway)
Enough preamble! Where can you go to get terrific tasting, perfectly textured, handmade noodles in Portland?
Frank’s Noodle House!
Where can you go to get a heaping pile of affordable noodles in Portland?
Frank’s Noodle House!!
Where can you go to enjoy these delicious noodles in a relaxed atmosphere that features a super friendly and ultra-competent wait staff? In short, where can you find noodle talent without pretension?
Hmm… Let me see. Oh yeah, Frank’s Noodle House!!!
I’m the first to admit that I am not a professional restaurant reviewer. But I am an expert of sorts on noodles – and Frank’s is, simply, the bomb. Frank’s has other dishes on their menu; I’ve even tried some of them and they were all great. But I go there because I’m a freak for great noodles and I’m writing this for my fellow noodle-freaks. Frank’s has 14 different kinds of handmade noodle dishes, ranging in price (dinner menu) from $7.95 for veggie (sorry pure vegans, there is one egg to every 50 pounds of flour used) to $12.95 for shrimp or squid. And, as I’ve noted, the portions are very large. I’ve been able to finish my dinner at Frank’s only once; I usually enjoy round two of Noodle-mania at home while watching Mystery Science Theater in my jammies.
Before I sign off, here are a few more notable mentions about Frank’s: Their dumplings are handmade. Eat them. They also come in a very generous pile of goodness that is perfect for sharing, though I recently managed to plow my way through a plate of them all by my lonesome. Their house sake is $5 and is more than palatable, especially for a house sake. Each order fills a sake cup about three times. That’s value!
Another thing about Frank’s I really enjoy is their serving ware. They eschew the usual wooden, non-reusable chopsticks in favor of the washable metal variety. These implements make eating slippery noodles tricky, but I appreciate the fact that the difficulty makes my dinner last longer. It simply takes more time to eat, thus expanding the experience.
I recently ate at Frank’s with a friend inexperienced in chopstick usage. He asked me, “So, what’s the trick with these chopsticks?”
“Pick up about three times as much as you actually want to shove into your mouth,” I told him, “because two thirds are going to slide off, leaving you with a perfect mouthful of noodles.”
He tried it. It worked. I was so proud.