Noodles & Company

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The band Charlie Belle plays during a Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) event at Noodles & Company.

Photo Credit: Debby Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

The Health Alliance for Austin Musicians held its eighth annual city-wide fundraiser on Tuesday, featuring live performances from over 200 artists.

From 6 a.m. Tuesday to 2 a.m. Wednesday, 290 local businesses, such as Whole Foods, Noodles & Company and Whataburger, participated by making a cash donation or by donating 5 percent of their day’s proceeds. The funds help provide access to health care for uninsured musicians.

“With Austin being the live music capital of the world, musicians bring almost $2 billion into the city’s economy, but the musicians themselves live on very low incomes,” said Carolyn Schwarz, executive director of the alliance.

Austin’s culture banks on the eight to nine thousand musicians residing in the city, according to Schwarz. These musicians have little to no health care, she said.

“Of the 3,000 musicians we have helped, the average income is about $16,000 per year,” Schwarz said. “On that income, you are paying your rent and buying your food, but not able to pay for health insurance.”

Founded in 2005, the health alliance partners with Austin area health care agencies to provide medical, dental, mental, hearing, vision and nutrition services to members.

The community can contribute by eating and shopping at participating venues and filling tip jars for performing musicians. Last year, the organization raised $312,000.

“It’s a beautiful city-wide event, where our musicians donate their time and talent, and the community gets to have fun while listening to music,” Schwarz said. “We are relying on this fundraiser for a third of our budget this year, so it’s very important to us.”

Erin Houser, an volunteer ambassador for the organization, said she is personally connected to the cause.

“My husband has been a professional musician for years and was a member,” Houser said. “Here in Austin, because there are so many musicians, it’s hard for a working musician to actually make a living wage.”

Several musicians performed near the UT campus, including alumnus “SaulPaul,” who played outside Texas Hillel.

“To me, the most fun and ostentatious part of this day is the fact that you get to see music in traditional and non-traditional locations,” Schwarz said.

Students dining in Noodles & Company listened to live performances by Charlie Belle. Biology major Karthik Raja said he enjoyed the entertainment and planned to learn more about the program.

The health care alliance set a goal of $350,000 for this year’s fundraiser.

“It’s a uniquely Austin kind of event,” Schwarz said. “And a uniquely Austin organization.”

Noodles and Company, open at Guadalupe and 24th, has a menu featuring a variety of pasta dishes, separated into sections of Asian, American, and Mediterranean inspiration.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Noodles & Company is the last franchise to fill out the space that once was Follett’s Intellectual Property on the Drag. Featuring a multi-cuisinal customizable menu with at least eight different kinds of noodles, Noodles & Company, at least on paper, sounds like a great place to take a group of friends with thin billfolds who are all craving something different.

Its menu is divided into three regions: Asian, Mediterranean and American. The items aren’t exactly authentic, but there’s variety: everything from peanut saute to mushroom stroganoff. They even have a few different versions of macaroni and cheese, including bacon cheeseburger mac and chili mac.

After waiting in line, you order a dish, decide whether you’d like to combine it with one of the soups or salads, and then you can upgrade your dish with a protein such as chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu, or add extra cheese or additional vegetables. But be careful: by adding a protein and two vegetables, your cute $4 entree doubles in price.

During lunch, it’s pretty busy: the lines are long and seating is sparse. However, it has an online ordering option through its website and an iPhone application, which eliminates the lines, but it doesn’t offer a delivery service.

For what this venue is, it’s not bad. The pad thai is some of the best on the Drag but not in Austin. Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish typically served with fried egg, fish sauce, red chili pepper, bean sprouts, peanuts, cilantro and either tofu, chicken or shrimp. Though Noodles & Company is a little too generous with the bean sprouts, the slightly spicy stir-fried and peanut-topped noodles are quite tasty.

The “grown-up” macaroni and cheese, the Truffle Mac, is an earthy and cheesy delight. The al dente mac-elbows are enveloped in a cheese sauce infused with white truffle oil and garlic, topped with sightly charred portabello mushrooms and covered in a thick layer of shredded Parmesan. When it comes to macaroni and cheese, there’s no such thing as too much cheese, but in this case, the overzealous layer of Parmesan destroyed the visual effect of the dish.

Again, though the menu items are not authentic, the Mediterranean portion of the menu finally fills the glaring Italian cuisine gap on the Drag. The spiral Cavatappi noodles are whimsical and fun, but the herbal basil pesto with wine undertones make the flavors sufficient to satisfy an Italian food craving. The Cavatappi is served with a sprinkling of mushrooms, near-poached tomatoes and garlic.

Noodles & Company also offers a variety of soups and salads, such as the Thai Curry Soup, a coconut curry broth with spinach, cabbage, mushrooms, tomato, red onion and rice noodles, or the Very Berry Spinach Salad topped with strawberries, pecans, crumbled bacon and blue cheese topped with a fig vinaigrette.

Despite its long lines and overzealous garnishing, Noodles & Company is bound to be a Drag favorite for its convenience and variety.

Printed on Monday, November 21, 2011 as: Noodle restaurant offers pasta dishes, convenience