Feed Your Brain at Noodlehead

Sweet & Spicy Pig Wings, Thai Fried Chicken, and Lemongrass Honey Green Tea

Sweet & Spicy Pig Wings, Thai Fried Chicken, and Lemongrass Honey Green Tea

My friend J.B. suggested recently that we have lunch at Noodlehead on South Highland Avenue in Shadyside and catch up with each other’s business and life. I hadn’t heard of Noodlehead, but with a name like that, it sounded like a cool place. I had tried the Thai scene some years back—liking the curries and, of course, Pad Thai—but was less fond of the somewhat prevalent ingredients of lemongrass and coconut milk in many of the dishes. My dormant Thai food period ended several months ago, though, as I enjoyed several tasty meals with friends at the Thai Place on Walnut Street, one of the original Thai restaurants in Pittsburgh.

I picked up J.B. and we headed to Noodlehead. The restaurant is in the “happening” section of Highland Avenue, before it crosses the bridge into East Liberty, in the spot where Typhoon restaurant once was. We entered and found a contemporary, yet comfortable restaurant—with stylish chairs and tables and decorative planks of rustic wood on the walls providing a comfortable warmth to the room. Tall glass windows in the front allowed rays of mid-winter sunshine to stream in, providing a nice ambiance.

We were seated by a friendly hostess, and I immediately noticed on the tables was a low profile box containing utensils, chopsticks, and napkins, flanked by a bottle of sriracha hot chili sauce. The menu was concise, but offered some tempting choices. The sight of cilantro in several dishes set off warning bells in my head because I don’t like the tangy herb. Cilantro is something that you either love or hate, and I, unfortunately, am on the wrong side of that equation. I sought J.B’s recommendations as he had been there before, and I found a few interesting choices. Then our waitress Sarah came over to get us started. Sarah and Cori, who also provided service, were lovely  people, both inside and out, and dressed in a casual chic. More importantly in the dining sphere, they provided friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive service.

See Yew

See Yew

I asked Sarah for appetizer recommendations, and she suggested the Sweet & Spicy Pig Wings, which she described as a shorter, rounder rib; and Thai Fried Chicken, which J.B. said he’d enjoyed on a previous trip. With the choice of appetizers settled, we moved on to the entrees. J.B. selected See Yew with big flat rice noodles, egg, broccoli, bok choy, sweet black soy sauce and your choice of shrimp, chicken, or tofu. J.B. chose to add chicken. Street Noodle #2 caught my eye, with its thin egg noodles, tempura shrimp, bok choy, and, oh no—my old nemesis—cilantro. I asked Sarah if I could order the dish without it, and she assured me it would not be a problem. You also had to pick your level of spiciness on a scale of one to five, with no. 1 being “A Lil Bit Spicy” to a full-blown “Crazy Hot” no. 5. I’ll bet the chefs love preparing the no. 5, probably adding pepper spices/sauces in the top range of the Scoville scale. We both ordered the no. 2 heat level.

J.B. ordered hot green tea, and I followed his lead—after all it was another polar vortex type of day. The tea had an interesting taste, and when I asked J.B what was in it, he replied, “lemongrass and honey.” It was rather pleasant, served in a medium-sized Mason jar with a handle.  Our appetizers arrived, and we were very pleased. The Sweet & Spicy Pig Wings were like mini drumsticks with a small flat bone protruding, serving as the “stick.” The sweet and sour glaze was perfect with a little bit of tanginess. The Thai Fried Chicken was a flattened, lightly breaded breast, fried crispy and cut into strips for dipping into a red sauce. The chicken strips weren’t heavily breaded and crisped up nicely. The sauce, however, was too nondescript for our liking, neither sweet nor spicy nor savory.

Street Noodle #2 with tempura shrimp

Street Noodle #2 with tempura shrimp

J.B and I tasted each others main dish, and both were very good. The ingredients of his See Yew complemented one another, basking in a savory sweet black soy sauce rich in umami. My Street Noodle #2 was just right at the no. 2 heat level, sans cilantro. All the ingredients were done perfectly, and the noodles, like angel hair, were cooked with the correct amount of give to the bite. The lightly breaded shrimp were crisp, and delicious, the bok choy was cooked properly in the sweet spot between not cooked enough and cooked too much. The bean sprouts—not mentioned on the menu as an ingredient—added a nice crunchy element.

Our fun expedition to this Asian oasis on Highland Avenue was over. Back to life, back to reality. One last interesting touch was that our bill was presented curled inside a small rattan bowl, and the payment (cash only, no cards accepted) is then placed in the same bowl for payment. As we left, I stopped at the front counter and peered through the cut out in the wall to the well-lit kitchen where many Thai cooks vigorously prepared orders.

Other menu highlights include Sukothai soup—rice noodles, seasoned ground pork, cilantro, peanuts, green beans, and hard-boiled egg in a spicy lime broth; Chiaig Mai Curry—egg noodles, chicken, pickled mustard greens, crispy shallots, and yellow curry coconut milk sauce; and the ubiquitous and always tasty Pad Thai. The prices are very reasonable for the quality of the food: soups ($6), appetizers (most $6), and noodle dishes ($9). Noodlehead also offers a selection of unique beverages, including Jaritos Soda Tamarindo, Red Ribbon Root Beer, Virgil’s Cream Soda, Mexican Coke, Sprite, or Fanta Orange Sodas, and Jamaica’s Finest Ginger Beer (very spicy).

Noodlehead is a sister restaurant to the successful Pusadees Garden in Lawrenceville. Noodlehead aspires to be “your neighborhood noodle shop,” and having eaten there, I think they’ve achieved that goal.


Noodlehead Exterior


242 S. Highland Ave.

Open Daily: Noon – 10 p.m.
BYOB: 50¢ per person
No Credit Cards

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central and a lover of great dining experiences.

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