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Best Fast Food 

Noodles & Company

National Public Radio draws plenty of sponsors. One hour is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the next owes its existence to a civic-minded law firm. But one morning last fall, the honey-voiced announcer imparted, "This hour is brought to you by Noodles & Company, soon to open in Creve Coeur." Noodles & Company! Just the name fired our imagination. It sounded kind of funny, kind of kids'-show-esque: What sort of adventures will Noodles & Company get into this week? When the restaurant did open (first in south county, then in Creve Coeur, south city and Chesterfield), our curiosity turned to delight. Delight then turned into addiction, as Noodles & Company always just happened to be right on our way, right exactly at lunchtime, for real. The food comes out fast but tastes lovingly crafted. And the options are far, far healthier than the Deep-Fried Crunchity Crunchers (with Cheese) available at most fast-food joints. The menu's divided into three general areas — Asia (Indonesian peanut sauté, perhaps?), the Mediterranean (whole-grain Tuscan fettuccine, anyone?) and America (Wisconsin mac & cheese, everyone!) — and the noodles keep company with equally excellent soups and salads. No matter what dish you choose, you'll be the proud sponsor of deliciousness.

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