The $10 Challenge: Yang Kee Noodle

Malls are a gift and a curse.

The convenience is the most redeeming quality of a typical trip to a Louisville shopping mall. In terms of one-stop shopping, I can’t beat having 50-plus retailers at my disposal when it’s time to find some shorts. Everything else, however, is awful – loud corridors filled with oblivious teenagers, pushy sales associates, and racks and racks and racks of clothes that I really don’t even need. I have a headache just thinking about the sensory overload.

To soothe my sensitive psyche, I’ve made more frequent meal-time visits to Oxmoor Center so I can stop by Yang Kee Noodle, a Louisville-grown pan-Asian restaurant in that mall. Yang Kee Noodle is a rarity – a local dining option in a shopping mall. Its location away from Oxmoor’s main corridor (it’s next to Dick’s Sporting Goods) and fast-casual concept make for a nice oasis when I’ve had enough browsing and buying. Plus, the food is tasty, fresh and affordable, especially important when I’ve treated myself a little too well on a shopping trip.

Yang Kee Noodle offers service that feels classy for the mall atmosphere – and that’s not a bad thing. Servers bring your meal and cutlery right to your table after you order at the counter. And no worries if you’re too tired to throw your trash away – employees clear your table, too. These little things might not seem like a big deal, but it tickled me pink to spend less than $10 and get a sit-down restaurant experience. Other national fast-casual restaurants with similar price points such as Panera and Chipotle don’t even give this type of service.

Yang Kee Noodle dining room.
Yang Kee Noodle dining room.

Yang Kee Noodle delivers a lineup of food that focuses on Asian-American cuisine that’s approachable to a large audience. I’ve seen Yang Kee Noodle’s menu items offered at a number of local Chinese places, such as fried rice ($6.99-$8.49), General Tso’s ($7.99-$8.99) and egg drop soup ($2.79). But this restaurant’s dishes are lighter than the more greasy fare I’ve eaten at other places. The noodles of the chicken lo mein, for example, left me pleasantly full instead of roll-me-out-the-door bloated.

Yang Kee Noodle's chicken lo mein.
Yang Kee Noodle’s chicken lo mein.

The number of options that Yang Kee Noodle offers its diners also sets the restaurant apart from other eateries that serve Asian food. The variety of combo options, stir-fry customizations, and a “pick two” menu provides opportunities to sample from across the menu in just one visit. Customers can upgrade any entrée to one of four combos, such as adding an egg roll and soft drink for an additional $2.59 or a cup of soup and a soft drink for $3.29. For stir-fry dishes (starting at $7.49), patrons choose the meat (or tofu) of their choice, a set of vegetables and sauce such as the Honey Bourbon or Golden Ginger, and rice or noodles. And the “pick two” menu ($7.49 or $8.99 with a drink) lets you chose from six starters and five entrees for one filling meal.

During a recent visit to Oxmoor, I stopped by Yang Kee Noodle for a pick-two lunch of chicken lo mein and potstickers. I also sprung for a soft drink ($8.99 for the meal).

Yang Kee Noodle pick two meal
Yang Kee Noodle pick two meal

Everything is made to order, so I waited about seven minutes or so for my lunch. The food was piping hot when a server brought it to my table beside the window. I started with my four potstickers, slim pockets of chicken and pork served with a Singapore sauce on the side.

Yang Kee Noodle potsticker.
Yang Kee Noodle potsticker.

This was a slightly salty yet light appetizer that provided a nice balance to the relatively sweeter lo mein. Nothing fancy, but nothing terrible, either.

The lo mein was loaded with shreds of carrots and strips of chicken. I could’ve gone for more cabbage, but that’s more of a personal preference. As I mentioned earlier, this noodle dish is much better than its counterparts at fast Chinese food restaurant because of its lighter sauce and fresher taste. A soy sauce coated the noodles well and didn’t leave the dreaded pool of gelatin-like substance at the bottom of the bowl. The flavors are pronounced enough to be interesting but subtle enough for a wide appeal. And those fried wontons on top? Yes, please, more of this.

Yang Kee Noodle chicken lo mein
Yang Kee Noodle chicken lo mein

Like my general relationship with shopping malls, I’m afraid that Yang Kee Noodle’s location in Oxmoor Mall is a gift and a curse. The restaurant provides a healthy, local dining option in a shopping center that just got rid of its food court, but I’d bet money that most people don’t think about going to the mall just for a meal. But Yang Kee Noodle is a hidden gem in the Louisville dining landscape. It’s affordable and it’s good. It’s even worth a trip to the mall.

Notes about Yang Kee Noodle

  • Rob once brought home some Firecracker Chicken and Yin-Yang Hot-Sour soup ($11.28 for the combo) when my head was congested. WHOA. Not only did both these dishes clear the heck out of my nasal passages, but I also sweated during the entire meal. Bonus: there was enough Firecracker Chicken for lunch the next day.
  • There’s a nice outside patio for dining al fresco. Yang Kee Noodle also serves beer. Put two and two together, and you get a nice place to spend a summer Saturday.
  • Decide what you want to order before you hit the cash register. A bit menu board and to-go menus are positioned near the entrance for pre-meal planning.
Yang Kee Noodle menu board
Yang Kee Noodle menu board.

The Stats

Yang Kee Noodle, 7900 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, Ky.

Pick two meal (chicken lo mein and four potstickers): $8.99

Mission: Accomplished

The Ashlee Eats guide to last-minute Christmas gifts

That’s me and my little tree. Christmas-y, huh?

You waited until now to start Christmas shopping, huh?

It’s OK, you have 120 hours and counting to grab some stuff for friends, family and your office Secret Santa.

Here’s a quick and dirty list of food-centric presents that you can scoop up for the big day. Good luck, and godspeed.

  • For the drinker
    • Bourbon. Duh. (Any decent liquor store)
    • Against the Grain Brewery has glassware to hold plenty of beer. The restaurant and brewery also offers Grainiac memberships come with anytime for discounts on beer all year long. (401 E. Main Street at Louisville Slugger Field)

 

 

  • For the barista in training
    • Quills Coffee has some deals that let you treat yo’ self while buying for the ones you love.
      • 10 percent off Quills diner mug when you buy a bag of coffee
      • Buy a bag of coffee and get 15 percent off your second bag
      • Free drink with a $25 Gift Card purchase
      • Fancy coffee-brewing sets

(quillscoffee.com or one of three locations)

 

 

  • For the out-of-towner
    • Bourbon is the gift that keeps on giving. Why not give the ones you love a little taste of Kentucky by buying products spiked with a nip of bourbon? Bourbon Barrel Foods has an array of sauces, marinades and seasonings worthy of any gift bag. (bourbonbarrelfood.com or various locations)

 

My Favorite Things: The tiny carts at Kroger

(Blogger’s note: Every once in a while, I come across something so awesome that I must shout it from the blogosphere. If Oprah can have her favorite things, why can’t I?

“My Favorite Things” is an occasional feature in which I gush about a product, store, gadget or other food-related item that has made my life a little sweeter.)

Oh, tiny cart. So petite, yet efficient.

I fell in love with Kroger’s tiny carts when I started living on my own and grocery shopping for one. I ust had to play a game of Goldilocks and the Three Bears to figure that out.

Kroger’s hand baskets are suitable until you decide that you HAVE to buy the 12-pack of Diet Coke. Then you end up with a Grand Canyon-sized dent in your arm. The regular-sized carts are hard to manuever, and lend themselves to some unneccessary purchases (why, yes, I WILL buy the three boxes of Raisin Bran Crunch that’s on sale — I have the room in my big girl cart!).

The tiny carts, however, are the Mini Coopers of consumerism. These tiny wonders are the perfect size for singles buying food just for themselves. They hug the curves as you round the corners of the aisle. And they’re just so darn cute.

These carts are usually stranded on the grassy knolls of parking lots or abandoned on the fringes near the streets. Cart collectors don’t make much of an effort to get these little guys back in the store because they don’t neatly fit into a row with their big brothers, the behemoths designed to haul both children and groceries. But if you’re single, or just need to pick up a few items, it’s worth a trip to the back of a parking lot to use one of these carts.

So Trader Joe’s is coming to Louisville?

The Big Guy must listen to my food prayers.

Signs are pointing to “yes” that Trader Joe’s is coming to Louisville.

The quirky grocery chain loved by hipsters and health nuts “intends to apply for licenses to sell beer and liquor at 4600 Shelbyville Road – the Shelbyville Road Plaza in St. Matthews – by June 1,” according to the Courier-Journal. And Business First seems pretty certain about the store’s arrival.

The Powers That Be still aren’t confirming that the store will definitely make a home in Louisville, but this is obviously a step in that direction.

The news made me do a happy dance. But one complaint – can we get a nice store like Trader Joe’s in a different part of the city? Gas is expensive, yet I have to burn a quarter tank just to do some decent shopping in Louisville. /end rant

Got bourbon? Get some and support Brightside at Four Roses Flower Hour

I’ve written before that I’m a fan of charity and food. Add bourbon to the mix, and you’ve got yourself an even better time.

Four Roses Bourbon and Nanz & Kraft Florists will sponsor the fourth-annual Four Roses Flower Hour charity event next week that benefits Brightside, an organization that promotes clean, green activities and initiatives in Louisville. 

Flower Hour will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Nanz & Kraft, 141 Breckenridge Lane. With a minimum $5 donation at the door, attendees can shop for gifts, drink a little bourbon and have some snacks with Master Distiller Jim Rutledge. All proceeds go to Brightside, so it sounds like a great deal.

What: Four Roses Flower Hour

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Feb. 11

Where: Nanz & Kraft, 141 Breckenridge Lane

Cost: Minimum $5 donation with proceeds going to Brightside


Mark your calendars: Frozen yogurt shop’s Sept. 29 opening will benefit Kosair Charities

I love fundraisers disguised as food events. They combine two of my passions – charity and good eats.

One such occasion will take place this week at 32°, A Yogurt Bar, a frozen yogurt shop that will host its Louisville grand opening from 5 – 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29, at The Summit.

Guests at the celebration can help themselves to a cup of all-you-care-to-eat frozen yogurt and toppings for a $5 donation. 32° will give all proceeds from the event to Kosair Children’s Hospital, according to a news release from the company.

This is 32°’s first location outside of Alabama, where the chain began. The yogurt bar is located between Starbucks and AT&T in The Summit. The Louisville shop will offer 14 daily flavors, which include gluten-free and kosher selections, and more than 50 toppings. The Summit is a bit of a journey from my hood, but some fro-yo sure is tempting.

A version of this article first appeared on Louisville.com.