Noodles & Company, a fast casual restaurant concept with more than 300 locations throughout the U.S., has announced an area development agreement with Mascott Corporation, owner and operator of six restaurant brands in the New Jersey region. Through the partnership, the Noodles & Company brand will open its first restaurant in the greater New York metro area. The restaurant will be a free-standing location at 683 Route 18 South in East Brunswick, N.J., and is slated to open in early 2013.

Through a combination of company and franchise restaurants, Noodles plans to open dozens of locations throughout the Northeast, including Boston, Hartford, Conn., Long Island, N.Y., and New Jersey in the next several years, J.B. Hewetson, franchise director of Noodles & Company, said in a company press release.

"We have made no small effort in selecting the best operators to help us grow and Mascott is a shining example of success in the restaurant industry. Their history and experience introducing brands to these markets is unparalleled and we are all proud to have formed a partnership together," Hewetson said.

Noodles & Company has tripled in size in the last seven years with double-digit annual growth since 2008, and has delivered strong performance in the past several years with positive same-store sales in 25 of the last 26 quarters. Noodles will reach about 330 units by the end of 2012.

Pork you can fork

The chain is also adding slow-braised, naturally raised pork to its menu with the introduction of the Barbecue Pork Mac and Peppery Pork Sandwich, both available for a limited time.

The recipe for the slow-braised, naturally raised pork was developed with versatility in mind. A go-to favorite is completely transformed by adding the tender, mildly peppery shredded pork, Tessa Stamper, Noodles & Company chef and registered dietician, said in the release. It has 160 calories and 8 grams of fat per serving.

"We specifically developed this protein with nutrition in mind," Stamper said. "It's one of the leanest cuts from the pork shoulder – typically thought to be a rich and fatty cut. By cooking it sous-vide style, we lock in its natural juices and cook it low and slow for five hours. That keeps it incredibly moist, but not greasy."

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