Noodle Bar | 172 Orchard Street (at Stanton St.), Manhattan | 212.228.9833 |

THERE IS A PROVERB THAT goes as follows: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!" And although I think the ideology behind that axiom have more to do with larger life issues, I can't help but think he at least got a few chuckles out of me this afternoon.

So there's been all this talk about the newest city-wide comfort food, meatballs, and its new, most talked-about purveyor, The Meatball Shoppe. And instead of doing the smart thing, which was taking the M15 downtown, being to get off at Houston Street and literally walking a block away, I decided to take the HOTSTOP-recommended subway route, which made directed to get off the 6 train at Bleeker and walk a series of blocks to my intended destination.

Well, that didn't work out to well as this native New Yorker—shame of all shame—got lost walking around a labyrinth of little "towns" (China, Italy, Korea), refamiliarizing myself with streets I forgot existed and having to ask directions from actual tourists!

By the time (that time being 45 minutes of walking later!) I arrived at Allen Street and Houston—finally getting my bearings and knowing where I was—the place was packed. There were about 12 people waiting outside to be seated, having already been told that the wait was already a half an hour. (It's always fun to see how "downtown" people dress for brunch with the same sense of black/grey, monochromatic style as Upper East Siders do to party at night.)

I was cold and had desperately needed a bathroom, so waiting wasn't an option. Not to fear, though, since a place I had been long overdue to write about, Katz' Delicatessen, was right around the corner. Again, however, packed; they had a line of about 30 people outside waiting to get into that Manhattan landmark.

After circling a couple of the same blocks a couple of times, I was shocked to find that, with this many hungry customers packing this two specific spots, that so many other restaurants were either closed, or open but empty. But a corner spot caught my eye with both its menu and its $7.95 lunch special.

It's called Noodle Bar, and I am by now very proud of this find. Inside was very roomy and comfy, and although it was quiet at the time, I would later find out that this place does extremely well for dinner and late night.

The lunch special included a soup or salad, two different spring rolls, and an choice of entrée. I ordered the daily soup special instead of salad and a noodle dish called mee goreng which is a spicier version of a kind of pad thai, with a closer-to-spaghetti sized noodle—bigger to hold more of the sauce's flavor—with crushed peanuts, shrimp, bean sprouts, fried tofu and potato.

The noodles were very tasty, possessing great varieties of flavor and little residual all. So impressed was I, in fact, that, although in my culinary maturity I've learned to accept tofu, this was the first time that I've actually enjoyed it! The taro rolls—one with veggies and the other with shrimp and crabmeat—were likewise far more than serviceable, with a nice, non-cloying mango-sweet chili sauce. The soup tasted more like an American vegetables-in-chicken-broth soup, with a touch of heat, but helped to take the chill off regardless.

I had enjoyed the special to the degree that it left me still a little curious as to some of the rest of the menu, so I additionally ordered the Sesame Chicken Wings, which were small in piece-size but plentiful in portion, and, although bathed in a honey-based pineapple-mango sauce, retained much of the meat's flavor and the fried skin's crispiness.

It wouldn't be until I got home that I would discover—via its listing on MenuPages—that Noodle Bar was already a popular neighborhood spot, winning rave reviews from its growing number of returning customers.

I plan to be one of those returning customers myself. However, with the steadily climbing number of well-executed, single-themed, small eateries that keep popping up on the Lower East Side (This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef, Luke's Lobster, the aforementioned Meatball Shoppe, etc.), I expect God to have several good chuckles at my expense in the very near future.

Bun Apple Tea!


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Noodle Bar | 172 Orchard Street (at Stanton St.), Manhattan | 212.228.9833 |