Nikki and I were first introduced to Pink Noodle over the summer, shortly after it grandly opened. After seeing a movie in Hillcrest, we walked down Fifth looking for a place to eat. It was nearly midnight, but in restaurant-heavy midtown, we did not think that would be a problem. Ah, but then we remembered we are the slightly sleepy city of San Diego, where restaurants close around 11:00, midnight, at the latest, so we detoured and stumbled upon a dream for those awake in the middle of the night, between Forth and Fifth, on University (where Kitima was before). Open until 3am, Pink Noodle offers a casual Thai menu to people like us. Anyone else who has searched and tried the open late or 24 hour joints around San Diego can feel me on this one – there is one thing you desperately hope for when you find a new place – that the food is good! You know you’ll probably end up at even the bad ones around 2 am some night regardless, but how wonderful is it when you can also enjoy what you are eating?
Pink Noodle is an all around score. When we went a few months ago, we were impressed with the food, service, and the puffy paint on the tables. Walking into Pink Noodle, you are immediately hit with layers of tacky decorations that somehow work. It’s a stark white room with touches of leafy wallpaper, tchotchkes, and bright tables with the kind of hearts and swirls painted on them that remind me of my Trapper Keeper cover, circa 1994, and yet, all this magically pulls together as underrated sophistication – yeah, I don’t know either.
The first time we were there, Adam, one of the general managers and the drink mixer, was our waiter. This time, we were helped by a Thai woman, who was entirely charming and even taught us how to say thank you in Thai. It’s like this, “ขอบคุณ.” Exactly. That was not all we learned in a different language…because here’s the thing about Pink Noodle – when you come in, unless you are dead set on keeping to yourself, you might just make some friends. The atmosphere is friendly and no one gives you “that look” when you sit there bitching about society and men with your girlfriends extremely loudly (not that we would ever do that). What’s more likely is that someone else in the restaurant will have a quippy remark to make about your conversation, and hey, now we can all just chat it up. That’s not to say you can’t have a private conversation there, but if you are open to meeting new people, this is a good place for you.
This time, we met a dazzling gent named Mike, who helped us on our journey to figuring out how to say, “Nice to meet you,” in French by actually going to a nearby French restaurant and having them write it on a card. He then sat with us and read us his own review of Pink Noodle. Yes, he’s a food critic; although, he didn’t want us to know that, but of course, we are too brilliant for secret keepers. All kind here, all kinds. Bottom line: we had a great time, just like we did the first time we came here, and now we’re Pink Noodle lovers.
Last time I was here I ordered the Sidewalk, a Thai dish, which has perfectly sauced and spiced rice noodles, served with tofu, spring onion, broccoli, herbs and spices. Loved it. This time, I ordered the Knock Out, Japanese Udon noodles, tossed with tofu, garlic, chilli, mushroom, and sweet basil, for $9.95. When I ordered this, I forgot to say I wanted the chicken subbed out for tofu, but by the time I realized this, I figured it was too late. Adam came to check on us as our food was being prepared (points for GM participation), and I informed him of my critical mistake. He flitted off and took care of everything, no irritation showing at all whatsoever. Lots of extra points. When he returned, he told us that nearly every dish on the menu can go vegetarian by simply taking out the meat and/or adding tofu, making this an ideal place for vegetarians, especially if you are eating out with meat-eating friends.
Here’s the thing, the food is awesome. Seriously, I love it. I’m a texture freak, and Udon noodles can really go the wrong way, but these are expertly cooked so they are not too slimy or mushy, and they seem to have a bit of a grip on them, making it easy to use the chop sticks, which, of course, I love to do. The spice element is there, but it’s not going to kill you. Also, in addition to the touted veggies, you also get zucchini and carrots. The dish is well-sauced, so you get all the flavor in every bite, but it’s not soupy or drippy or syrupy. I notoriously add to my food – extra soy sauce, extra ketchup, extra hot sauce, extra whatever is available, but I have absolutely no need to do that here. I thoroughly enjoy the food as it comes out, and I love that while we eat, our drinks are kept full, and the service is open to chat if we want it, but if we’re clearly talking they just do their thing and move along.
Nikki and I do not drink alcohol, but this is a place to grab a drink with a wide variety of choices if that’s your style. Alternatively, your Diet Pepsi (yep, Pepsi) comes in tall glasses and there are quite a few teas. Nikki gets the chamomile – you know, because we’re there late – and it has a ting of mint and a floral note that is quite lovely.
Pink Noodle is our newest late night spot, and I’m stoked because some light and delicious Thai makes me so much happier in the long run than the mediocre pancakes or burritos available at almost all other all-nighters. Next time I go, I think I’m going to go for signature dish, the Pink Lady. Yes, the noodles are pink, and I’ve heard it’s awesome. I’ll also try a dessert and let you all know how it is. Go for the funky atmosphere. Go for the friends you’ll make. Go for the noodles already! They’re yum!
Pink Noodle is located at 406 University Avenue in Hillcrest. It is open from 10 am – 3 pm daily, and they’ll deliver. Pink Noodle is a perfect place for a date, for a night out with your homies, and even for a biggish group, and seriously, don’t even try walking down and around looking for somewhere else to eat when it’s after 11:30. Just go straight to Pink Noodle, and soak it up.