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ISSUE 119 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/3/2006

Wiggles & Wok cooks up healthy alternative

By Brenna Bray
Staff Writer


Friday, March 3, 2006

What's the deal with Wiggles & Wok, the new restaurant that opened Feb. 6, replacing Quizno's at 200 South Water in downtown Northfield? Wok often connotates Asian cuisine but Wiggles holds no Asian affiliation.

Wiggles & Wok provides a healthy alternative to mainstream fast food. Its cuisine includes noodles, stir fries, soups, salads and sides.

“It's not Oriental; it's not Italian,” owner Mike Hoover said. “But Wiggles & Wok will satisfy cravings for both cuisines and more.”

Wild rice, barley and white rice stir fries are Wiggles and Wok's specialities but they serve spaghetti, alfredo and lo mien noodle dishes as well.

“Our goal is to provide quick and healthy service for lunch and dinner,” Hoover said.

Though Chinese food is often about as healthy as a trip to McDonald’s, Wiggles & Wok prepares its food with the health concious consumer in mind.

Hoover uses olive oil instead of hydrogenated oils for cooking, and real creams and butters instead of processed additives and sprays.

“We use fresh ingredients – pea pods, broccoli, cucumbers, and offer healthy side dishes like fresh-cut fruit or bruschetta, instead of French fries,” Hoover said.

Hoover is as homegrown as his ingredients. His grandparents lived in Northfield before he did; he worked in the restaurant industry for eight years after high school, and then co-owned and managed The Ranch House in Northfield for 12 years.

Observing his parents in the food business inspired Hoover to explore owning a restaurant of his own.

Hoover had the idea for a restaurant like Wiggles & Wok while still at The Ranch House a few years back when his partner wanted to sell The Ranch House. Hoover took the opportunity to follow his dream and bought the building that formerly housed Quizno's.

The building's interior has changed little. The seating has stayed the same but Hoover has taken down the signs and stickers that Quizno's used and improved the building's cooking area.

After being in operation for nearly a month Hoover admitted that there are many rewards but also unavoidable challenges.

“Business was better than expected opening week. Then it dropped off and is now building back up again,” Hoover said. “Even at The Ranch House though, winters were always slower.”

Hoover expects his cuisine to appeal to younger customers and health-conscious individuals who want to see restaurants move back to natural ingredients.

According to Hoover, the few Ole employees have been pulling in St. Olaf customers – mostly friends. Hoover hopes to see more Oles and Carls as word about Wiggles & Wok spreads.

Hoover also hopes his newly upgraded credit card system will help to attract the modern-minded student who never carries cash but is also never without their credit card.

Though the restaurant’s name is catchy, several customers admitted not really understanding what it means.

Hoover explained, “I was trying to think of something that would touch on noodles and stir fries. I was thinking noodles, they wiggle and wok for the stir fry.”

Hoover recommends the “Bows & Bows” – bowtie noodles in a sweet and spicy “spazzy” sauce. The vegetable lo mien with whole grain noodles also is popular with customers, Hoover said, but his personal favorite is the wild rice and mushroom stir fry – he enjoys the crunch of the celery and the health benefits of the wild rice.

All Wiggles & Wok cuisine is cooked to order. Cooking takes no longer than three to four minutes.

Wiggles & Wok is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Learning from his parents’ experience, Hoover wanted to be able to have some time each week away from the business. “I told myself if I did this, I would keep Sundays free to be with my family,” Hoover said.

Wiggles & Wok offers a menu selection unlike others in Northfield that is well worth an excursion out of the dorm.





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