Appetite: Noodle Box Brings Fast-Casual Asian Fare Back to King Street in Alexandria

Appetite: Noodle Box Brings Fast-Casual Asian Fare Back to King Street in Alexandria

If You Go

Noodle Box, 602 King St.

Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily.

Try this: The spicy basil chicken. “People may be hesitating because they’ve never seen it. When you say the name pad Thai, yakisoba, (or) red or green curry, they’ve seen that already. … Once they try it, they like it,” says co-owner Keng Nimmannit.

For more than a decade, noodles, rice and Asian fare have been a mainstay at 602 King St. For years, Red Mei was in residence; now, after several months of vacancy, Noodle Box has made itself right at home.

The two restaurants are unrelated, says Noodle Box co-owner Ken Nimmannit. The owners of Red Mei were planning for retirement; when they did, Nimmannit and his business partner, Tommy Kanavivatchai, swooped in to take over the space, keeping an Asian fast-casual focus on the forefront of King Street.

“We came up with the idea that we want to be able to serve the food, the authentic food — the same kind of food that is served in fancy restaurants,” he said.

One of the first things Nimmannit and team did was freshen up the space’s décor. After more than a decade as Red Mei, the eatery had become a bit dated; Noodle Box is now bright and airy, with a modern feel.

But what really brings in the customers is the food – and Noodle Box has a wealth of options from which to choose. Whether looking for a meat-based plate or a vegan-inspired entrée, with either rice or noodles, Noodle Box has diners covered.

The menu selections run the gamut from the familiar to the more exotic.

“One of the best sellers is pad Thai … and we have another popular dish that they don’t serve anywhere and at the beginning I thought ‘that’s not going to sell.’ It’s called spicy basil chicken. It’s chicken stir-fried with vegetables with basil and chili sauce.”

Served with jasmine rice, the spicy basil chicken has become somewhat of a sleeper classic, Nimmannit says.

“At the beginning, I even told my friend that I wanted to remove it, but now we have to keep it,” he laughed.

Noodle Box has faced the usual growing pains of a new restaurant — occasional lengthy waits for meals and longer than usual lines. But Nimmannit is committed to working through that, he says, emphasizing the balance between cooking from scratch and keeping the kitchen efficient.

“Our restaurant — we cook to order. Sometimes when we have a lot of business … it might take some time. I hope customers understand. We cook everything from scratch, it’s properly cooked,” he said.

By the looks of things on a regular weeknight, customers don’t seem to mind the occasional wait for food. And while Noodle Box has already become a destination for the workday set, Nimmannit says he hopes to see more neighbors drop by at night.

“I would love local people, other residents, any day they don’t want to cook for themselves, come by and we’ll cook for them,” Nimmannit said. “They can eat properly cooked food at our place and the price is really reasonable.”

Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at Email her any time at