Jeremy and Boden Stutsman get food at a pre-opening event at Noodle Heads. Truth photos by MVK.
When Chef Kelly Graff said she was opening a noodle shop in Goshen, people got pretty excited.
Fans of noodles, fans of ethnic food and fans of Graff’s all started waiting. And kept asking when it would open.
On Thursday, the restaurant opened to the public for the first time.
The lines were long.
It ran out of food.
The reviews from those who got some were strong.
But I got a call from co-owner Elaine Laux at 7:45 p.m. saying the restaurant wouldn’t reopen until Wednesday, Sept. 4.
That’s not how restaurant openings usually go.
It’s hard to open a restaurant. There are often delays. And this time, there are some pretty good reasons.
In March, Graff spoke privately about wanting to open a new place.
She’s one of the most successful chefs in the area, but rumors were swirling about the closing of Kelly Jae’s Cafe and/or Kelly Jae’s Next Door. Even as partner Karen Kennedy left, Graff made it clear her bar on the corner and the restaurant next door that opened first weren’t go anywhere.
And she mentioned this noodle shop. She went public with the news in April and said she hoped to open Noodle Heads by the end of May.
Laux joined Graff as a manager at Kelly Jae’s and as co-owner of the noodle shop.
It’s going into the former Il Forno at 127 S. Main St., Goshen.
Delays because of some of the items needed for the restaurant prompted delays in opening. But finally, the paper came off the front windows.
A few weeks ago, Graff and Laux pulled in some friends and family to make some of the food they hoped to serve. On Tuesday, Aug. 20, there was a preview event for some local business folks and others. I got a taste of Graff’s creativity and flavors in noodle dishes and salads.
And then came the first day.
“We just did not anticipate the crowds and the lines. That caught us off guard,” Laux said.
They were hoping for a soft opening, to use restaurant lingo. They didn’t get it. It wasn’t a disaster, but Laux and Graff quickly decided to close for a bit longer. “Our issue was internally in the kitchen,” Laux said.
The kitchen isn’t laid out in a way that will allow them to feed people the way they wish. The need a new charbroiler. They need a different line than what was there.
One could ask why they didn’t know this until opening night. “Yesterday was a great learning experience, but we really feel we want to have this mastered and want this to go smoothly,” Laux said.
No one has opened a noodle shop like this in Goshen. No one including Graff. She’d made the food in the Kelly Jae’s kitchen for the other events and didn’t foresee the problems.
Those on the outside can argue that she should have, but it doesn’t matter much. “Sometimes you don’t know that until you actually start preparing there,” Laux said.
On the blog Thursday night, I suggested that perhaps Noodle Heads could serve a limited amount of food each day until they finish dealing with this. But that’s not possible when the kitchen is torn up.
Laux, who has a background in manufacturing, said, “We stopped the production line to get it straightened out.”
They want to deliver good service and quality food, she said.
They want to be able to fill a dining room that seats 55 in the front and 20 to 25 in the back.
So fans who want a taste of this food will have to wait until Wednesday, Sept. 4. Laux said by then they’ll have the kitchen where they want and be ready to go.
And – here’s the good news for those impatient fans – because the kitchen will be organized better, they anticipate being able to open for lunch sooner rather than later. They may start being open from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, but there’s a better chance they’ll add lunch soon after.
And Laux and Graff have been clear about the delays and why they need time. They were forthright and honest. And in the long run that will serve them better than limping through the first few weeks just because fans are hungry.
Noodle Heads will add an interesting twist to the local restaurant scene. The flavors will be good. The approach of taking an order and then serving it to you to eat in the dining room or take home is similar to what Iechyd Da Brewing Co. does. And it works well there. (Though it should be noted you can only take the beer home if you have the right glass container to do so.)
Noodle Heads will be open soon. There will soon be dumplings. And I’ll look forward to a second taste of the pork belly ramen.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.