Le Melon: Everyday Noodles is relaxed and real
Chinese food is one of those types of cuisine that tastes different in every country you go to. In India, where I live, it’s loaded with spices to excite the palette and full of vegetarian renditions of common Chinese fast food classics such as “Gobi Manchurian” (made with cauliflower), in lieu of chicken manchurian of course. In America, I’ve found that Chinese food takes the names of what I assume are historical figures (General Tso’s Chicken, anyone?) and is mellowed down to better suit the taste of the typical American customer. Because of this, when I eat Chinese food in Pittsburgh, I find myself scanning the menu for different versions of the generic dishes that I’ve indulged in countless times. It was this routine I had gotten into that pushed me into a state of uneasiness when looking at the menu at Everyday Noodles.
The restaurant sits on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill, walking distance from the Cold Stone and Rite Aid on the intersection of Murray and Forbes. Inside, the lights are bright and the tables are usually packed with vibrant, chatty customers of all age groups. I highly recommend — if possible — sitting at the bench seat, which is positioned right in front of the glass window that looks into the kitchen. Through the glass you can see the dumplings and noodles being prepared from scratch. The way the chefs kneed the dough and carefully pull it to craft the noodles and dumplings served hot to customers is mesmerizing. Of course, most of the seats in the restaurant have a view of the signature glass pane, to add to the authentic feel that the food carries with it, so if you can’t get the bench seat, don’t feel too discouraged.
The decor of the restaurant is simple and fits the atmosphere well. A cushioned bench lines one wall and has thin bamboo-like structures lining it from the top of the back-rest to the interface between the wall and the ceiling. There are tables scattered about, and the staff does a great job of making sure they can fit in as many people as possible. If you go on a particularly busy night, you might have to wait for a while before you get a seat, so do plan ahead if you happen to be in a rush.
I cannot count how many times I’ve been to this restaurant, but I can count the number of dishes I’ve had. I’m usually not one for repetition, but after finding my share of favorites at Everyday Noodles, I find myself craving the signature tastes that my mind has come to associate with the establishment. Here are some personal favorites:
Pork Soup Dumplings: This is one food item that I cannot visit Everyday Noodles without eating. Eight of these steaming hot, delicately crafted bundles of flavor come with every order, ready to eat. The dumplings look relatively simple on the outside, but on the inside contain a small piece of pork and soup for it to float around in. The dumplings are made fresh and are therefore very hot, so here’s a little trick my friend taught me to eat them if you can’t wait for them to cool down:
Step 1: The dumplings come with large soup spoons, and they do much more than catch any soup that might leak out of ruptured dumplings. The first thing you do here, is carefully lift one dumpling out of the steamer basket and place it on your spoon.
Step 2: Poke a tiny hole in the dumpling. You can do this either with a chopstick or if you trust yourself, by biting a small piece of the dumpling off.
Step 3: Using your chopstick, press down on the dumpling from the top and let the soup seep into the spoon out of the dumpling to surround it. Now that it’s out of the inside, it’ll be able to cool down faster. Go ahead and sip.
Step 4: Now that the dumpling’s got a good amount of soup squeezed out of it, and a hole to cool off the insides, it should be ready to pop into your mouth after sitting for a little longer.
By the time you’ve eaten a few like this, the rest should have cooled down amply enough for you to eat them whole and let the soupy, doughy, meaty concoction explode in your mouth. It’s heavenly.
Minced Pork Rice Bowl: I’m a teriyaki addict, so I’m usually a little weary of savory rice bowls that air on the saltier side, but this dish is definitely an exception. It consists of what it promises: minced pork and rice, along with some vegetables and a boiled egg. What I enjoy so much about this bowl is the fact that it can be eaten deconstructed, or heavily mixed together and still taste phenomenal. Each of the individual elements is cooked and flavored very specifically, which results in great individual flavors as well as great integrated flavors. It’s filling, it’s warm and it’s a great dish to share with friends.
Egg Yolk Bun: At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a dessert item. The lovely, round, fluffy bun comes with an egg yolk filling that is sweetened up just enough not to be overwhelming. Again, this arrives hot, and is an unusual flavor, but is something that has so far agreed with the palettes of all whom I’ve taken out for a bite. It’s an easy dare for the blossoming food experimentalist.
Bok Choy in Vegetable Oyster Sauce: All meals require some sort of balance, and here I’ve found some rich greens in a tangy sauce to be perfect. The restaurant has a variety of greens to choose from, but the bok choy is by far my favorite. It’s leafy enough not to be overwhelming, and soft enough to munch on between mouthfuls of rice or noodles. The vegetables can also come with minced pork sauce, but I’ve found it helpful to have something vegetarian and neutral for the table, especially when with a group.
Jasmine Green Tea: I love tea with my food, whether at home or at a restaurant, and at this restaurant the green tea comes in the form of what looks like a sapling. The triangular prism bag is topped with a green wire with a small plastic leaf attached to it, that pokes out of the heartily sized tea cup, infusing tea steadily. Free hot water refills are available, and the intensity of the bag, if rationed out carefully, can last a good 2–3 cups. It’s light, and washes down the heavy food items effectively.
If you’re more of a noodle bowl lover and are inclined to see how the namesake dishes live up to your expectations, there are quite a few noodle bowls to choose from. The soup noodles bowls are quite large and very filling, while the dry noodles bowls are more realistic in terms of one-sitting consumption goals.
There are also some dishes on the menu that are unfamiliar to the typical Americanized Chinese menu, such as the House Oxtail Soup. I’ve only had the pleasure to taste a handful of these, and was particularly intrigued by the cool, refreshing, jellyfish salad.
The restaurant also happens to have a broad selection of delicious bubble tea, if that’s the way your taste buds want to go.
Cha-ching: The restaurant takes cards and cash and is great with splitting checks for large groups.
Veggie stuff: There are NOT a whole lot of vegetarian mains here, but those that are present have been tried and tested by friends of mine. For vegetarians I would highly recommend the vegetable dumplings, which are made with a similar level of finesse as the pork soup dumplings. I would argue, in fact, that the dumplings are what most sing praise for. Other vegetarian options are marked on the menu with an encircled “v,” and the waiters have been very helpful in the past with pointing out vegetarian options and vegetarian versions of some dishes.
Are we there yet?: All of the 61 buses will get you to Forbes and Murray from campus, where you can easily walk to your final destination. Taking an Uber is also not a bad option, although taking the bus to Squirrel Hill is definitely simpler than it is for other locations. Here’s a location to punch into your Uber app for the destination, or Google Maps if you’re in the area and headed over by foot: 5875 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15217
Click, click: The website for this restaurant has improved significantly since I first used it, and includes a menu, an about page, some pictures of the restaurant, and other features. Do check it out: http://www.everydaynoodles.net
For those stay-at-home days: This place has a great FREE home delivery service, with a $15 minimum for the order to be delivered, that lasts through restaurant kitchen operation hours. I’ve found ordering straight from the restaurant (as opposed to grubhub, for example) to be very effective, as they are careful to keep the food hot for when it arrives at your doorstep. This is especially great for the pork soup dumplings, which reach their optimal “eat-in-one-bite” temperature once they arrive. Here are their numbers: (412) 421-6668 and (412) 421-6669
Monday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
4 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
21+: As far as I am aware, they do not serve alcohol, and do not have an established policy on bringing in one’s own alcohol.
Rash Alert: Gluten, nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, shellfish — there are a lot of common allergies that can be triggered here, so be sure to ask the waiter what is in your dish before you try it, especially if you are particularly sensitive to any of the ingredients I mentioned, or any other ingredients in typical Chinese cuisine.
Ambience: Lively, friendly, relaxed.
College student friendly?: Very much so. It’s a hot spot for families, college students, couples of all ages and — on occasion — some high schoolers looking for a quick bite before heading home. Given it’s location, it gets attention from a wide variety of audiences.
Overall rating: 4 melons