The Cooking Channel says "Stay Hungry." To hell with that.

Cincinnati Bites
Blue Ash Chili Pancakes

Posted Saturday, June 8, 2013
Note: the following review is for a restaurant that has since closed.

A children's show on PBS was to blame for the scolding, the finger pointing, the furrowed brow and disapproving gaze cast on me like a long, angry shadow. Scrawled repeatedly down the long wall before us, in vivid Crayola technicolor, was the first word I'd ever written. Though I could not yet read, the four letters had been pounded into my brain thanks to a bouncy tune sung by my cheery peers. The word was, "ZOOM," and it would forever haunt my mother's nightmares.

Doodles is the kind of restaurant that brings out that kid in me, the one yearning to pick up a big, fat crayon again and run it along a white, virgin canvas, knowing that I'm free to do so without fear of reproach. The Asian eatery, which invites its patrons to draw on its paper tablecloths, has been firmly rooted in Hyde Park soil for as long as I can remember, serving up its solidly reliable and particularly noodly Chinese and Thai dishes.

Gone are the crowds who'd once packed into the small place; most diners have long since moved on to trendier, more popular fare. The obscurity and anonymity that time affords restaurants like Doodles is borne out of a waning interest, not the quality of the cuisine. That there are also now a dozen or so competing Asian restaurants in the Oakley and Hyde Park area does Doodles no favors. But for some of us yearning to find a quieter spot to enjoy a good meal, these facts make visiting Doodles a sweet deal.

Still, the restaurant hasn't exactly become a forgotten haven for misfits and senior citizens. It caters to an eclectic group of all ages, juggles a steady stream of take-out orders and continues to make subtle updates to its menu.

The restaurant's east and south walls of glass offer gleaming light cascading down on tables covered in heavy white paper and armed with crayons. Hanging on one wall near the cash register are some notable customer drawings, some simple and cartoonish, others as intricate and as colorful as a Monet landscape.

We stopped in for our customary appetizer round of spicy shrimp wontons, served with vibrant green, steamed broccoli and a sweet and tangy dipping sauce. Within five minutes of sitting down, our first "doodle" had already defiled the tablecloth.

spicy shrimp wontons with broccoli

The appetizer was simple but satisfying: the broccoli wasn't overcooked, still offering resistance against a fork. The wontons were blanketed in a light sauce, then topped with crushed peanuts and a gentle dusting of scallions.

Finishing up a crude drawing of a fluffy cat head popping out the top of a tall vase, I ordered my Doodles "usual:" the Thai-inspired Fiery Flat Rice Noodles, spice level of 8 (out of 10), stir-fried in a piquant sauce with chicken, strips of red pepper and green chilis.

Doodling at Doodles

My girlfriend ordered the Taiwanese Style Rice Noodles, what the menu describes as a "classic" Taiwanese dish, we call a homage to Pad Thai: thin rice noodles stir-fried with strips of chicken in a "light shallot sauce," topped with crushed peanuts and cilantro and served with a slice of lime.

When our entrees arrived, we had already filled the tablecloth with cat heads, indecipherable scribbles and my typical sinking ship with the words, "I'll never let go" popping out of the abruptly angled stern. The ship is a customary doodle of mine, not intended as a metaphor for the restaurant itself.

Taiwanese Style Rice Noodles
Fiery Flat Rice Noodles

Both of our dishes were ample in size, richly colored and not overly oily, which is a frequent stir-fry faux pas at other, newer Thai restaurants. The flavors of the entrees were equal parts light and bold and fresh, exhibiting a confident consistency we've come to expect and appreciate from Doodles.

If you're looking for a respite from the restaurants currently embroiled in popularity contests, grab a crayon, sketch out some time, and enjoy a plate of noodles at Doodles.

Doodle's on Urbanspoon

Price: Moderately Expensive ($11 - $16 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.0 out of 43.0 stars

Other Recent Reviews

  1. Dinner Impressions: Envision Cinemas Bar & Grill
    -posted Tuesday, January 16, 2018
  2. A Taste of Hawaii: Poke Hut
    -posted Thursday, January 4, 2018
  3. Pizza in Walnut Hills: Fireside Pizza
    -posted Thursday, December 21, 2017
  4. Breakfast and Brunch Review: Wild Eggs
    -posted Tuesday, December 19, 2017
  5. Barbecue Impressions: Bourbon Smokehouse
    -posted Sunday, December 17, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Natasia Malaihollo about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thank you for the review and background on the restaurant history! I was a huge fan of huit and super disappointed when they “closed.” Was wondering what’s going on with this musical chairs of a restaurant strategy so thank you for clarifying!
    posted: Fri., Jan 26th, 2018 @ 6:50 PM
  • From Jeff about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for the thorough review! It honestly does seem like a new restaurant is opening every other day..but the thing about the wait staff..they might be getting paid a higher hourly rate because they are only open for lunch. I’ve worked at a restaurant where I was paid $10 an hour but the owner kept the tips, it sucked but sort of made sense for the lunch shift.
    posted: Fri., Dec 22nd, 2017 @ 9:00 PM
  • From heather about Wild Eggs:
    we liked it too - things are fresh and made from scratch and high quality - good experiences all around
    posted: Wed., Dec 20th, 2017 @ 10:55 AM
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for writing, Heather. I definitely like their other restaurants. Lalo's pazole and fish taco are better than Mazunte's, I think. But I agree they are definitely hit-or-miss. I'm still rooting for them, though. There's talent there. :)

    posted: Mon., Nov 20th, 2017 @ 1:30 PM
  • From Heather JOhnson about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    I tried Huit & Lalo and they were both expensive and so mixed - one thing great - another thing barely mediocre. More of the same it sounds like - hits and misses for a really expensive lunch. Nope on Dope.
    posted: Sun., Nov 19th, 2017 @ 12:41 PM
  • From TJ Jackson about Udupi Cafe:
    I do not know if it is truly a match for the product you remember, but Frostop Root Beer is sold at Jungle Jims and is a personal favorite of mine.
    posted: Fri., Sep 29th, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
  • From Jones about Haru Korean Restaurant:
    As a long time reader, I found this review to be one of your loveliest and most enthusiastically vivid. I can't wait to try this place!
    posted: Tue., Aug 29th, 2017 @ 9:48 AM
  • From Jordan about Grand Central Delicatessen:
    posted: Sat., Jun 3rd, 2017 @ 12:16 PM
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
  • From Tabitha about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    This is definitely going on the list. Thanks for posting. Do they also have margaritas?
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:23 PM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design