Smile Politely

Yes, I think I might “heart” Doodles

Doodles has opened its doors periodically over the past few weeks, but today it makes its opening official. Shai Mauth, co-owner of Doodles and owner of the great Xinh Xinh Café, will celebrate the grand opening today at 10 a.m. Shai will have dollar cups of Doodles available and samples throughout the day.

I have to admit that I had a hard time finding the place the first time I visited. It’s on the directory at the Johnstowne Center but it’s still not in the most obvious location. Thankfully I have a phone that makes up for all of my inadequacies, including my inability to find much of anything, whether my eyes are open or closed. I looked at the dot on my GPS representing my current location, blinking right on top of the address I plugged in, and wondered, “Okay, what now?”

I’ve been to the Johnstowne Center numerous times before (Insomnia Cookies and That’s Rentertainment), but I never realized that there was a space down the walkway, behind Insomnia Cookies. Luckily, Shai has since eased my navigational troubles by putting a sign out front. I’d say it’s worth your effort to look for it for a quick, inexpensive meal.

Several people have questioned me about the idea of a restaurant that sells ramen noodles since I first wrote about it. “Why would I buy ramen when I go out?” “Ramen is the cheapest thing I can get, why would I pay more for it?” Sure, those are valid considerations, but my answer now is simply, “Because it’s actually pretty good; you’d be surprised.”

One of the beautiful things about Doodles is that the menu is mostly à la carte. You choose your ramen cup and then have them add whatever toppings you want to it. The options are pretty extensive and my guess is that they’ll keep you coming back, just to mix it up. Your basic ramen cup will range from $1.50–3.00 and toppings cost an additional $.25–1.00. For the most part, you’ll end up with a Doodle cup for around $3.

I tried the Dumpling Doodle, a ramen cup topped with shrimp shumai, and added mushroom and baby bok choy for a total of $3. I received the cup ― caught off guard by how large it was ― and then, surprisingly, wasn’t sure what to do next. It’s really up to you from that point, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself if your noodles are undercooked. Take your Doodle bowl over to the prep. station, fill it with hot water and cover it for 2–3 minutes. I actually let mine cook a little longer while I checked out my other options.

I was certain that the noodles were not simply instant, but it must have been the spices and vegetables that really gave them more of an authentic taste. The shrimp shumai tasted like a cross between mom’s homemade dumplings and some fresh cocktail shrimp. That may sound a bit strange, but if you like shrimp and don’t get bothered by certain textures, then my guess is that you’ll like it. It made me feel warm and comforted and was a nice break from the terrible weather outside. I added a little Hoisin sauce on top, which really boosted the richness of the noodles. 

I also tried the Curry Mie Doodle even though I’m not much of a spicy fan and added hard-boiled eggs, chicken and onions. The Curry Mie Doodle cup is one of the cheaper base options on the menu and the combination I chose will cost you a total of $3.25. 

Initially I thought, “This is way too spicy for me,” not only because I’m a lightweight when it comes to spiciness, but also because all I could taste was curry. However, once I got the paste good and mixed in ― I was a little careless at first, I discovered ― the savory blend of curry paste, onions and egg all hit. The chicken helped cut some of the heat too and was a nice addition. It was still spicy to me but it was a spicy that I couldn’t stop eating. It was mostly a watered down version of the paste and spices that lingered on my chopsticks, and it was still hot to me, but I couldn’t help but lick them clean.

I saw the Seafood Doodle but didn’t try it. It looks good though. Here’s one with some hard-boiled eggs added:

As mentioned in the preview article, Doodles also offers sushi, salads and good old-fashioned, sugary American cereal. 

Yep, that’s Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, marshmallows, gummy bears and orange boba. I didn’t try this combination as one, but if it wasn’t Shai’s and I hadn’t just received two Doodle bowls I would have been finding a spoon to try this curious concoction. I had never seen a bowl of cereal quite like it. This would set you back $2.50, as cereal toppings are free until January.

Before I left, I grabbed some Furikake rolls to try. The sushi is made fresh daily and this particular one was rice and seaweed filled with avocado, cucumber and crab meat, topped with sesame seeds and bonito (Japanese fish) flakes. For $4.50 I got eight rolls and I felt it was worth it. Admittedly I’m still a bit new to the sushi realm ― I had only ever tried California rolls up until about a year ago ― but I enjoyed the roasted sesame seeds and the freshness of the crabmeat. I’d say it’s a viable option if you want some sushi on the run.

The focus of Doodles is on the campus community and the college student on the go, but I’d say give it a shot whether you fall into that category or not. Chances are you have had ramen before but it probably wasn’t this good. With prices that are low and a taste that’s high, your risk is low. If you’re already a fan of Xinh Xinh then you’ll definitely appreciate some of the seasonings at Doodles and Shai’s attention to details, most notably the freshness of the vegetables and toppings. Admittedly, I won’t frequent Doodles as much as Xinh Xinh, but I like what Shai has created and must say I was pleasantly surprised by what I’ve sampled so far. So, it may not have been love at first sight, but I think I could fall for Doodles.

Related Articles