Hang Loose and Eat Noodles
If you’re a Northlander and you don’t know what Longboards is, then one might doubt your authenticity. To say that it’s a sandwich/burrito shop is like saying that a Lotus is a car. Is it correct? Sure. But it’s also not the whole story. Longboards is like taking a Subway sandwich, smashing it with a Chipotle burrito and running it through a sixties surf movie filter. Sound good? Of course, it does. That’s why they have not only thrived but expanded and now have four locations around the metro.
But sometimes, you just need to try something new. While the four current Longboards locations keep owners Gilbert Macapagal and John Bailey busy, they were willing to back Shem Yap with their signature style and let him loose on the world of noodles. Thus, the Shaka Noodle Shack was born. The word ‘shaka’ means hang loose and live an easy lifestyle, according to Yap.
The small shop, located at 414 Armour Road in North Kansas City, is already hopping, with good reason. The menu is small, just like the space, but has something for everyone and all at a very reasonable price point. The menu prices range from $2.59 for a cup ‘o dumplings, either pork and shrimp or tofu and mushroom, to the Kamikaze bowl, which at $7.99 is the Shaka version of Longboards’ OG style wraps. In between is a full collection of perfectly lunch sized bowls that either hit the spot for what you’re craving or show you what you didn’t know you wanted.
The idea of fusion cuisine is practically the official Filipino cuisine. With myriad cultural influences, Filipino cuisine combines elements from Asia, Spain, India, and American cuisine. Yap wanted to maintain the idea of fusion by turning out bowls that use recognizable ingredients in unexpected ways, like the Bollywood Udon bowl. With Japanese saffron udon noodles as a base, you might expect a clear broth similar to ramen or pho. Instead, they douse it with a tikka masala curry sauce, stir-fried veggies and chicken and tofu. Expected? No. Tasty? Yes.
When I visited, I tried bowls from very different flavor regions. The Thai Kick Noodles and Meatballs aren’t kidding when they promise a kick. To a spice novice like myself, they packed just enough heat that I wanted more. The medium width rice noodles come with a choice of pad Thai sauce, peanut sauce or spicy coconut sauce. I chose pad Thai which accented the stir fry veggies, Thai pesto, egg, crushed nuts and two Thai meatballs perfectly. The noodles were slightly sticky, which is a hazard of quick noodle spots but it didn’t stop me from enjoying them.
My next bowl moved a bit west on the globe–to Italy. The Ray Liotta bowl features bucatini pasta with a short rib beef and mushroom marinara sauce, topped with aged cheese, fresh herbs, and ‘shaka toppings.’ While the beef could use a touch more simmer time, the flavor was right on–rich and meaty. Both bowls are lunch sized portions so if you’re especially hungry, plan on getting a side dish of a hot dog musubi (think spam sushi) or dumplings.
Sometimes, when you’re sitting in a spot that reminds you of Longboards, you just can’t do without a wrap. And as you look at the surf and skateboard related decor, that is likely to happen. Never fear; there are two wraps on the menu as well. I tried the Da Jeepney ($6.49), and it didn’t disappoint. With a base of garlic fried rice topped with an over easy egg and pork torta, it’s grilled and warm when you unwrap it. If you’re cutting carbs, the Shaka Noodle Shack is not for you. If you’re not, then you’re in heaven.
The bright space is sure to be a hit with local high school students, moviegoers, and workers around the area. It’s currently focused on the lunch crowd and only offers evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays, but Yap says that they are watching traffic and may extend their hours if there is demand. In the meantime, get over to the Shack for a bowl of good vibes for lunch.