Opening a franchise of a successful restaurant can be a quick way to fill seats, but what if its concept doesn’t have staying power in the new location? That’s a question Eric Czado, co-owner and chef of South Burlington’s Nothing But Noodles, says he’s been asking himself for quite a while.
When Czado acquired partial ownership of the starchy chain’s local location in June, the first thing he did was replace the house coffee with Speeder & Earl’s. Then he started using his own versions of soups and sauces rather than prepackaged ones. These days, the Creamy Balsamic, Asian and Cranberry Vinaigrette dressings are made in house. Czado created a vegetarian Thai curry sauce because the franchise’s version contained fish sauce. “Most of the menu is 100-percent-legit vegetarian now,” he says.
Gradually, Czado says, he and co-owner Eric Suhadolc realized that it was time to divorce themselves from Nothing But Noodles. On the night of January 18, the restaurant will be renamed Erics’ Place.
“I can be more local and do different things, which is nice,” Czado explains, mentioning his plan to add a tilapia entrée, mussels with fresh marinara sauce and, he hopes, paella. He recently experimented with quinoa: “We’re going to slowly change the menu over the next six months.”
Czado has set his sights on attaining membership in the Vermont Fresh Network while maintaining his current price point. “I don’t want to freak anybody out,” he says.
Not all the changes will be culinary. At dinner, the restaurant will feature table service. This week, Burlington City Arts stopped by to install some local paintings on the walls. New curtains will limit the view of the Blue Mall’s parking lot, and potted plants give the space a homier vibe. “It was very sterile,” Czado admits. Now, he says, the place is “a lot more inviting.”