There’s no absence of Thai food in Pittsburgh, so when a few coworkers of mine kept recommending a place called NoodleHead I looked at it with just minimal interest. It wasn’t until I looked at their website and menu that the place piqued my interest. Their whole brand was surprisingly competent for an emerging Pittsburgh restaurant—it just seemed hip and very put together. After reading the menu I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to my favorite Thai restaurant, Pusadee’s Garden. The dishes shared a similar vibe and a few of the menu items had unique names that were straight out of Pusadee’s own menu. After a quick Google search my suspicions were confirmed—Pusadee’s daughter, who obviously appreciates minimalist, fresh Thai food with an added flair for style, owns NoodleHead.
The interior of NoodleHead is slick. Worn looking white washed wood planks line the walls and mingle with metal and ceramic tile. The stylized décor go well with the rest of Highland Ave’s trendy restaurants. A mixture of seating styles make it easy to get a seat quickly—one reason why I don’t often go to Mad Mex next door. You can pull up to a row of stools facing a giant window, sit down at a long table with bench seating or sit two to four people at individual tables. The place was pretty busy when Janey and I arrived so we plopped down on two benches and people-watched through the window in front of us.
One thing, though—the place is cash only! In this day and age, with the advent of Square Reader you’d think everyone would be taking your money in whatever form you have it. Instead, I had to walk into the back part of the restaurant and pay a $2.50 fee to use their ATM. Guys—charge me the transaction fee if you must, but absorb it into your menu—don’t make it inconvenient for me.
The first thing on the menu that caught my eye was the Pulled Pork Belly Steamed Buns. The shredded pork was topped with a few pickled cucumbers that had a tart taste to them. The bun itself was sweet, sticky and soft. My only complaint was the amount of oil pooled on the plate that seemingly came from nowhere. It did not affect the flavor but was distracting and messy. The pork belly was shredded and melted in your mouth. The item itself resembled more of a slider than a steamed bun but I thought their twist on the concept was unique and still preserved the concept.
I ordered the beef soup with a heat index of 3 out of 5. Four was “Thai hot” and five must come with a waiver. The heat #3 was pretty intense and I think anything higher would have ruined my meal. The little pieces of beef were numerous and tender and the broth was aromatic and intensely flavored. It almost had a consistency and flavor similar to Vietnamese Pho.
Janey’s Street Noodle #1 was basically fried chicken piled over noodles and broth. I’ll let that description speak for itself.
NoodleHead gives an attention to fresh food just like Pusadee’s garden but with a surprisingly tight aesthetic. Everything about the place felt polished—the food came out quickly, the service was attentive and the food was fresh and had a few modern concessions without being ridiculous.