Review: Everyday Noodles
Squirrel Hill gem Everyday Noodles offers authentic Chinese noodles and dumplings, plus a front-row seat to the noodle-making action.
Photos by Laura Petrilla
The Chinese characters on the menu at “Everyday Noodles” can be translated into “I will see you every day,” which is fitting for a restaurant that has compelled locals to make regular — weekly, sometimes daily — visits. One of the charms of Everyday Noodles, which opened in late February, is its casual yet colorful environment.
The menu is a checklist, on which diners mark off choices.
The fun part is watching through a glass window as chefs wield massive skeins of dough, stretching them continuously to form noodles. If they’re not making noodles, they will treat you to a show of dumpling-making. This makes your meal entertaining and reminds you of Everyday Noodles’ top selling point — freshness.
“The food here is very authentic and like what you would find in China and Taiwan,” says owner Mike Chen. “We bring in chefs from Taiwan every three or four months to train our staff to make sure everything is authentic.”
This training enables the menu to change gradually and expand without fluctuating completely so that your favorite dishes remain. The menu item that has created the most buzz is xiaolongbao (or “soup dumplings;” $9-$11). These thin dumplings are filled with soup and a bit of meatball (pork; pork and crab; or shrimp and loofah, a Chinese squash, available only on Sundays). Everyday Noodles is the first local restaurant to offer soup dumplings, and folks are coming from as far as Cleveland to try them.
The dumplings are very hot, so servers advise customers on how to eat them. Chen suggests using chopsticks to carefully lift the dumpling into a soup spoon, poking a hole on top to release steam, pouring dumpling sauce with ginger over top and then putting the whole thing into your mouth. After doing this once, you’ll want to keep going — and maybe down an order of dumplings yourself.
Soup dumplings are the most-buzzed-about menu items at Everyday Noodles; the homemade creations are filled with meat and a bit of soup.
The menu is divided into many categories, but nothing costs more than $12. Under appetizers, I enjoyed the crunchy jellyfish salad ($8), with its hint of vinegar and consistency of coleslaw. I also liked the savory marinated beef tendon ($8), with a chewy consistency.
The best noodle soup is the braised beef ($11), providing a large helping of broth, noodles and chunks of fork-tender beef. The restaurant’s wheat-based noodles are served thin like spaghetti or thick like fettucini. Steamed baby bok choy is a light side dish ($7); some people order it and toss some of the veggies in their soup.
As for the dim sum, the pot stickers ($8-$10) are respectable, with thin skins and nicely browned exteriors. Two great, fresh dishes are the slightly sweet rolled-onion pancake with thinly sliced beef ($8) and the flat pan-fried green onion pancake ($6).
Among the “dry noodles,” which aren’t in broth, I can’t get enough of the ones served with minced pork sauce ($7). Noodles are topped with chopped braised pork that’s in a sweet, tangy sauce, accented with julienned cucumbers and a few soybeans. This crowd-pleaser is one of Everyday Noodles’ best-sellers.
All three desserts are great. The creamy crispy mini bun ($4) is akin to a doughnut hole but has a cloudlike texture and lacks greasiness. The sweet bean-paste crispy pancakes ($7) are thin layers of dough sandwiching sweet red-bean paste; it’s so good that you might end up eating the whole thing. With the third option, duck egg-yolk steamed buns ($6), you receive three buns.
In the land of bubble tea, aka Squirrel Hill, Everyday Noodles offers fine options. The milk-based bubble teas ($4.50) feature leche, a specialty milk that’s easier for lactose-intolerant patrons to digest. In addition to the bubbles (tapioca balls), you can add as many as six toppings ($0.50 each), including jellies and beans. I like the coconut lychee jelly, which offers a burst of tropical flavor.
Chen says he believes that “[t]he Asian restaurants in Squirrel Hill are not competition for each other. There are so many countries and styles represented; together [they] make a great restaurant district, where people can arrive and choose what they feel like eating.”
Everyday Noodles is a standout among the many eatery choices. Long lines of hungry folks are clear proof.
(5875 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill; 412/421-6668 & 6669, everydaynoodles.net)
Mike Chen | Owner, Everyday Noodles
You’ve owned restaurants for many years. What prompted your decision to open Everyday Noodles?
My early restaurants date back to the 1980s, when we had more Chinese-American cuisine, such as General Tso’s chicken. Tamari [which he owns with his son, Allen] is fun because it offers Asian-Latin fusion; we opened Tamari in Lawrenceville because there are a lot of young people there who want to try new things. I really felt the time was right for Everyday Noodles, to introduce people to a different kind of authentic Chinese cuisine.
What made the timing right?
I did a lot of research and learned that in the last few years, the Asian population of Squirrel Hill has grown to [nearly] 20 percent. At Carnegie Mellon, the Asian population is [higher]. In addition, Pittsburghers are traveling much more and are being exposed to authentic Chinese food. I knew [the] city would enjoy [this] food.
What is your background?
I was born and raised in Taiwan. All my family is in [the United States] now. I moved here in 1983 from [Los Angeles], married a Pittsburgher and raised my family here. I owned a grocery store on Murray Avenue. I realized recently that I’ve lived here 30 years, and I only lived in Taiwan 23 years. I’m a Pittsburgher now.
Do you travel to Taiwan often?
All my relatives are in California and Pittsburgh now. However, I teach a restaurant-management seminar twice a year at the University of Taiwan, so that gives me a chance to visit and see what’s happening.
What is something people don’t know about you?
I am proud that I brought the Dragon Boat Festival to Pittsburgh. We have three boats at the South Side Riverfront Park. The festival is a fun way to bring together all kinds of people.