Noodlehead in Shadyside is a casual, affordable, and delicious Thai noodle joint.
While service tends to be lacking, we give it a pass because the food is just that good. From dumplings to noodle soups to curry noodles and pad Thai, you can't go wrong with any dish on the Noodlehead menu.
You'll Get Over the Service at Noodlehead
Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first.
The first time we went, our waitress was clearly annoyed with me asking questions about whether or not a certain dish contained tree nuts (I have a serious tree nut allergy). She also had an attitude when our party of four asked to split the bill into two checks (they don't split checks).
On our most recent visit, we put our name in and waited a good 20 minutes to be seated while three or four other parties that came in after us were seated before us in the half-empty restaurant. Eventually the hostess came up to us and asked us if our name was on the list.
The whole thing felt mildly like we were being passed over for guests who arrived later- something that appeared to clash with their policy of not seating guests until everyone has arrived.
In any case, we finally got a seat and our waiter was fortunately very good this time.
All that being said, if you go in knowing the service is spotty, you'll be able to get over it and savor the amazing food.
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Our favorite appetizer is the pork belly steamed buns. It's a perfect marriage of soft, fluffy bun; sweet, tender meat; and crunchy pickled cucumber.
On our most recent visit we also tried the sweet potato triangles which are samosas stuffed with a creamy mashed sweet potato filling and served with a sweet vinegar-based dipping sauce.
Although it was 99% humidity and 100+ degrees outside, we couldn't resist one of the noodle soups. This time we tried the Sukothai with rice noodles, pork, cilantro, green beans, and a hard-boiled egg.
The ground pork meatballs were juicy and savory, while the broth had the distinctive Thai flavor combination of sour, spicy, and salty.
For noodle dishes we tried the See Yew and Street Noodle #2. The street noodle dish had a sweet and spicy vinegar sauce and was studded with bok choy, bean sprouts, and cilantro. It was topped with the crispiest, shrimpiest tempura fried shrimp I've ever had.
The See Yew was our favorite dish of the night with its sweet, salty, and spicy soy-based sauce coating perfectly-cooked wide rice noodles and scrambled egg, broccoli, and bok choy adding texture and color.
You get to choose your spice level on a scale of 0-5 for all main dishes; we chose a 2 for the Street Noodle dish and a 3 for the soup and See Yew. All of us thought we could have handled a level 4- something we'll be sure to try on our next visit which will be very, very soon.
Other things to note are that the restaurant is cash only (there's an ATM in the back) and BYOB with a 50 cent/person fee.
Noodlehead is located at 242 S. Highland Avenue in Shadyside.