My favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh changes quite a bit, but the current reigning champ is Noodlehead, a Thai noodle restaurant, in Shadyside.
You really can’t ask for anything more than a heaping pile of noodles and veggies in expertly-flavored sauces. And that’s a good thing because Noodlehead’s menu is fairly small. Not limited; focused.
And I love that because they know what they do well. And they do it so well.
They have 10 different noodle dishes on the menu, a handful of appetizers, and that’s about it. Each of their noodle dishes cost $9.50, regardless of the protein you choose, and their appetizers range in price from $3.50 to $7.
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That said, a nice chunk of their menu can be made vegan. Actually, 69% of the menu. That’s right. I did that delicious math.
For an omnivore restaurant, that’s pretty impressive. Nay, that’s super impressive. And I’ve never gotten a confused look when I ask for something “vegan.” They know what to do and they do it.
Now, because all but one of their noodle dishes can be made vegan (exception being the Beef Soup, for obvious reasons), I decided to try a handful of their vegan noodle dishes (and an appetizer) to help you choose the best of the best during your next trip to good ol’ Noodlehead.
Eating Vegan at Noodlehead: what to order
You know. Doing the hard work. Just for you.
- See Yew with tofu
- Chiang Mai Curry with tofu
- Pad Thai with tofu
- Green Curry Linguine tofu
- Crispy Veggie Spring Rolls
- Kee Mao with tofu*
You can get their noodles vegan with tofu (fried or steamed) or with veggies. I always go for the fried tofu, and it has never ever disappointed. Especially in the dishes with darker sauces like the See Yew and the Kee Mao. The little tofu nuggets are tossed in each sauce and are slightly caramelized before making their home nuzzled in noodles.
But what do you get if you’re only ordering one dish, not four, like a normal person? I have to say, even though I broke out of my comfort zone for this trip, the Kee Mao is still #1 in my heart. Let’s review.
See Yew – big flat rice noodles, broccoli, napa cabbage, sweet black soy sauce, tofu
We decided to get this at a 1 on the spice scale, and it was way more tame than the Kee Mao (more on this in a bit).
That said, it’s really similar to the Kee Mao with the big rice noodles veg. That said, Yew was more salty and a bit more savory, while the Kee Mao channels more of the sweet/spicy vibes.
Alexa Rating: 8/10
Chiang Mai Curry
Chiang Mai Curry – pickled mustard greens, crispy shallots, yellow curry coconut milk sauce, tofu
This is my boyfriend’s go-to. When it’s not vegan, it comes loaded with chicken and a nest of crispy egg noodles on top, and he goes crazy for it every time.
Luckily, you don’t lose any flavor when you make it vegan. The flavor is so balanced–rich and creamy from the coconut milk, tangy from the pickled greens, a little sweet, definitely savory, and full of that flavor that keeps you coming back for “just another bite.” Even when you’re way too full.
Alexa Rating: 9/10
Pad Thai – rice noodles, bean sprouts, peanuts, scallions, tamarind sauce, tofu
Out of all the dishes we ordered, this is the one that underwhelmed us the most. There were some things we liked, like the bean sprouts, toasted peanuts, and fresh lime to squeeze over the top. But there were also some things we didn’t like, like the overpowering vinegar-y flavor of the sauce.
This was a near-miss for us. Definitely not our favorite, but I wouldn’t be mad about picking off of someone else’s plate if they ordered this.
Alexa Rating: 6/10
Green Curry Linguine
Green Curry Linguine – semolina noodles, green curry sauce, eggplant, broccoli, green beans, green peppers, basil, tofu
I had been curious about this dish every time I went to Noodlehead, but I never actually ended up ordering it until this time. I’m now kicking myself because woah. SO many flavors!
This was the surprise of the night for me. Green curry has such a unique flavor, and this dish completely nails it. It wasn’t super spicy (I think we ordered a 0 for this), but it was rich, slightly citrusy, and full of fresh vegetables and herbs.
The only slightly odd thing about this dish was the big ol’ basil plant served whole on top. That said, we happily plucked the leaves off the stem and mixed them into the curry.
Bonus points for this dish: it reheats the best out of the four! The flavors intensify in the best way possible. Almost worth asking an extra order to-go.
Alexa Rating: 8/10
Kee Mao – big flat rice noodles, bok choy, napa cabbage, spicy chili garlic sauce, tofu
It’s spicy, garlicky, sweet, and savory, yet it’s totally balanced. It’s not loaded with veggies, swimming in sauce, or topped with any flashy toppings. It’s just a big ol’ plate of spicy Thai noodles, and I’m convinced it’s the best thing on the menu.
On Noodlehead’s spice scale, I can only handle a 1 with this dish (and I love spice!). And pro tip: be sure to take leftovers home and eat it cold. Cold Thai noodles are wildly underrated.
*Full disclosure: I didn’t order the Kee Mao during our most recent trip because I get it every time I go to Noodlehead. Even so, it deserves to be included in this review because it’s truly that good.
Alexa Rating: 12/10 (yes, really)
Appetizer: Crispy Veggie Spring Rolls
Like I mentioned, we got an appetizer, the Crispy Veggie Spring Rolls. They were good, and the dipping sauce was sweet and tangy. There were only two rolls in an order, but for $3.50, we didn’t mind.
That said, I’d probably skip them next time. The food at Noodlehead comes out wickedly fast, so you don’t really need a little snack to tide you over until your meal comes out. We had just finished our rolls when all four of our entrees came to our table.
Noodlehead: Know Before You Go
A few other things to note: Noodlehead is BYOB! No corkage fee, but there is a small recycling fee.
They also accept cash only, but don’t worry if you forget; there’s an ATM in the back.
I adore Noodlehead in their simplicity, mouthwatering flavors, and vegan options.
So go forth! Eat vegan! And slurp up all the noodles your mouth can handle.
- Location: 242 South Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
- Hours: Open Daily 12pm – 10pm
- Holidays: Noodlehead is closed 4 days a year (July 4th // Thanksgiving // Christmas Eve // Christmas Day)