Voting Home / Zao Noodle Bar
Nominated for: BEST Asian Fusion
The Zao Noodle Bar chain, founded in Palo Alto, Calif., a decade ago, now has six locations in the Pacific Northwest, and further expansion is planned. The original concept prominently featured Japanese-style noodles, but those have been dropped in favor of Westernized Asian street-food dishes with Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese influences. Top sellers: ginger-garlic chile chicken and prawns and Vietnamese rice noodles with protein toppings. "The spice and aromatics are a little dumbed-down compared to what you would find in Asia," says CEO Matthew Baizer. "But we're fresh. We take the essences of Asian flavors and add them to reasonably priced American dishes, and it has worked."