Fun Noodle Bar now open in Odessa

Pan fried bao at Fun Noodle Bar in Odessa, TX. The store is owned by the same family that owns Noodles in Midland and Volcano in both cities. It is located at the intersection of University and Grandview in the same shopping center as Mr. Gatti's.
Pan fried bao at Fun Noodle Bar in Odessa, TX. The store is owned by the same family that owns Noodles in Midland and Volcano in both cities. It is located at the intersection of University and Grandview in the same shopping center as Mr. Gatti’s.

Long-time Dine Drink Travel readers know that we (Texan Abroad, John Brawley Tophat, and Notorious P.I.G.) are big fans of Noodles in Midland. One of the first reviews we ever wrote was about Volcano in Odessa. We also love Volcano in Midland. Essentially, we love good Asian food options anywhere in the Petroplex. Happily, the same owner who brought us these stars has also opened Fun Noodle Bar in Odessa. It opened today, and I have already been there twice.

Let’s start with comparisons. This place is owned by the same folks who own Noodles in Midland. I think the Odessa location is better. It offers everything the Midland location has. It also has a bar with a couple of my favorite Asian beers, and there are more food choices. Critically, however, both places have somebody hand-making noodles right where you can see it.

Fun Noodle Bar in Odessa as seen from the front of the restaurant.
Fun Noodle Bar in Odessa as seen from the front of the restaurant.

The restaurant is long and narrow. There are a couple of odd features. First, there are two bars. The beer and wine bar is to your left at the front of the house. The noodle bar serves no alcohol. Rather, it is a bar to the back right where they make fresh noodles. Seating here is a great option for single diners (which I was at lunch) or perhaps a pair. The second odd feature is that they have three tables designed to seat 10. This is potentially great for large groups. It also presented a small problem that I will discuss later.

But how was the food?

The real key to any restaurant, of course, is the quality of the food. Like each of the other restaurants in this group, the food was excellent. That’s why I went there twice today. At lunch I dined alone and enjoyed pan fried pork bao and a spicy tonkatsu ramen. Oh my. The bao are dumplings made from the same dough they use for noodles. The dough is thicker than at the Midland store, and the portions are smaller. That made them a perfect appeitzer. The ramen was excellent. The pork was not presented in the traditional round cut, but it was very good.

Spicy tonkatsu ramen at Fun Noodle Bar in Odessa.
Spicy tonkatsu ramen at Fun Noodle Bar in Odessa.

I went back at dinner with my family. We arrived shortly before 6 and were quickly seated. Right after we arrived, however, a long line developed. The food, however, was again excellent. We tried the spicy baby cucumbers, fried leek pancakes, more ramen, some spicy noodles, and some Dan Dan noodles. It was all so tremendously good. The Dan Dan noodles, in particular, had a lovely garlic flavor. Some things are worth gaining weight over.

But how was the service?

Any time you go to a restaurant on opening day, you should reasonably expect some bumps in the service. Fun Noodle Bar was no exception. At lunch, the service was fine. It was a bit slow, but apparently Odessa had not yet discovered the restaurant. That meant that everything worked out well. In those brief instances where I waited, I simply ate more. Yummy.

Dinner was rougher. The restaurant was crowded, and the systems couldn’t quite keep up. I noticed four things which were a little weird. First, they sat multiple parties at those tables for ten. That was fine, but somewhat awkward for those unused to German beer hall style dining. Indeed, I did not particularly enjoy the country music offerings of one of my tablemates. Consider asking for a regular table.

The other issues were similarly minor. At dinner, they ran out of bao and dumplings. It was going to take a while to make more, so we selected other things. When I got up to go to the men’s room, the wait staff took my chair and gave it to another table– even though my seventh grader asked them not to. This was quickly corrected when I returned. Finally, the long waits I experienced at lunch came up again. My wife and I received entrees long before our children. Once our entrees started getting cold, we started to eat them. We were mostly done when the last entree arrived. This was poor timing.

Final verdict on Fun Noodle Bar

Those problems, however, struck me as pretty minor. They would be problems if Fun Noodle Bar is still experiencing the same issues in six months. However, today was the first day of business. Shakedown problems are to be expected. The food, however, was consistently excellent. I am glad I went, and I will definitely make another trip soon.

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