This post has been updated.
Chef Dennis Friedman thinks he's figured out everything it takes to open a popular fast-casual franchise. He has the product: Fuzu noodles, a made-to-order curry- or soy-flavored noodle dish with veggies, proteins, and spice. He has the slogan, and it's trademarked: "Salty and sweet, with a touch of heat." He even has a novelty utensil: The chork, a chopstick's answer to a spork. And on Sept. 23, he'll have his grand opening of Newton's Noodles, the first restaurant in a concept that he hopes to franchise. Look for it at 1129 20th Street NW.
Friedman's Fuzu noodles are a popular dish at his restaurant, Newton's Table in Bethesda. And because he doesn't want to neglect his first restaurant while he's getting Newton's Noodles off the ground, Friedman has brought on former PS 7's chef-owner Peter Smith as his co-executive chef at Newton's Table. He hints that there will be news to come about another venture for the pair.
"We're both at the point in our careers where our egos don't drive us anymore," said Friedman. "We're focused on the food and creating something cool."
Friedman says that he'll spend most of his days downtown at Newton's Noodles, and evenings in Bethesda at Newton's Kitchen. "I'm not splitting my time. I've figured out a way to replicate myself," said Friedman. "We didn't want to be like all of those other restaurants where they expand, but something is missing from the original operation. Pete and I are pushing each other to be better chefs."
At Newton's Noodles, the fast-casual version of the noodle dish is more customizable. Guests will pick between two types of noodles and sauces, and can choose among five proteins and a variety of veggies and toppings. The restaurant has a high-tech wireless ordering system, designed to move customers through the busy lunch rush quickly. Friedman says that the Fuzu can be made to order in three minutes flat. There will also be side dishes: tuna bites, wontons, soba noodle salad and spring rolls.
"Basically what I've done is take what I know to be a home run or a smash success -- dishes that people love -- and find a way to provide that in a fast-casual concept, where it's affordable, and made fresh to order," said Friedman.
The fast Fuzu will be served in a Chinese takeout box with the plastic chork, which can be used three ways: as a fork; as connected "training" chopsticks, which Friedman says is the most popular use; or split apart to make traditional chopsticks. The only other place to find chorks in D.C. is at the food truck PhoWheels.
As for the name Fuzu, Friedman says it isn't based on anything. "It's just fun," he said. "It's easy to say and remember. There's no rhyme or reason, it's just something that I did a long long time ago, and it stuck."
A brief demonstration in chork etiquette, with our leftover Fuzu: