Shai Mauth and Tan Duong have created an affordable, to-go cup of noodles option on East John Street, just two blocks from the quad on campus. And yes, you’ll find instant ramen noodles there, for less than two dollars a cup. Doodles is set to open in November and will target the university crowd, who should be familiar with the idea of top ramen noodles.
“I’m taking that [instant top ramen noodles] and making it gourmet style. I’m throwing my own flavor into it. We want it to be ‘instantly good.’ That’s our catch phrase,” Mauth said.
Mauth, who is self-proclaimed anti-corporate but still wants to franchise his brand, comes from a family of small business owners and ventured into the fold himself here in Champaign-Urbana when he opened up Xinh Xinh Café on January 26, 2009. He has since built a loyal customer base, thanks in part to fresh ingredients and a variety of favorable spices (see http://www.smilepolitely.com/food/the_top_10_new_restaurants_of_the_decade/).
“I don’t expect them [loyal Xinh Xinh customers] to drive over here for a cup of ramen, but if you’re walking by you’ll want to stop by and check it out,” Mauth said.
With Doodles, Mauth and co-owner Duong — who also happens to be Mauth’s cousin — are focusing not only on convenience and price, but also the diversity of the campus community. Doodles will offer 25 different options for toppings — about half of them vegetarian — as well as a variety of flavored seasonings. Their flavored ramen mixes will include: sesame (Chinese), miso (Japanese), shoyu (Hawaiian), tom yum (Thai), curry (Indonesian) and kimchi (Korean).
“I understand the different demographics and I want to hit the different ethnic backgrounds,” Mauth said. “The whole world eats ramen noodles. I picked different regions I’ve lived in and chose a flavor from there. I’m very excited about some of the flavors we’re putting together.”
In addition to its ramen noodle options, Doodles will offer cereal, sushi and, in the near future, salads, omusubi (rice balls wrapped in nori (seaweed) and filled with seasoned meat) and matcha green tea Rice Krispies Treats. The cereal is just that — cereal. “I’m serving American cereal. There’s no Asian cereal,” Mauth said. For $2.50 you’ll be able to get two cups of cereal and milk with toppings as options. You’ll be able to choose from fresh and dried fruits, as well as boba toppings (I had a chance to sample the orange and the lychee fruit, which were excellent, and I can imagine them being a great addition to a bowl of cereal). “My thoughts are always to do something with an Asian flare,” Mauth said.
The originations of Doodles began about two years ago when Duong started suggesting the idea of an inexpensive option to “keep somebody warm in a cold place.” Duong liked the diversity of New York and the possibility of a $1 cup of noodle cart, but he eventually began thinking about campus communities. “They provide the right amount of people with students from all around the world. We want students to be able to walk and eat by the time they get to class. Instead of holding a cup of Starbucks, they’ll be holding a cup of Doodles,” Duong said.
Mauth and Duong don’t have an exact date for the opening but they know that it will come sometime in November. “Xinh Xinh is keeping me tied up right now. It’s a must for me to open before winter break and we’ll be in full operation by spring semester. We’ll have everything I want to offer, including seasonal items, by then,” Mauth said.
Look out for an upcoming Smile Politely review…