Interview with owner of CUC's new dining option, Revolution Noodle
This Fall, a new restaurant opened to serve authentic Chinese noodles at the Cohon University Center: Revolution Noodle. Its opening was attributed to the combined effort of Chartwells, the University's dining service, and the owners of Hunan Express, another Chinese restaurant at Carnegie Mellon with an older history.
As one of the owners of both Revolution Noodle and Hunan Express, Leilana Chen hoped to meet the food demands of the University’s diverse student population. “[Revolution Noodle] opened up because it was another concept … something different for the students to try and have more options,” Chen explained.
A choice of noodle, protein, and broth, or a couple of buns with several different flavors — the menu of Revolution Noodle is very simple. However, the variety of options still brings a lot of excitement for students to test out different combinations.
In terms of the most recommended option, Chen states that vermicelli noodles with braised beef can rarely go wrong. On the other hand, for Andrew Seo, Class of 2026, “egg noodles, spicy broth, beef and shrimp … as much cilantro as possible” was his go-to order. “I like Revolution Noodle because it was the only place where I could have a meal with warm broth,” added Seo.
Even without having an initial expectation, business at Revolution Noodle turned out to be a success. “We are busy, and a lot of students really like it, and we have a lot of regular customers from Hunan too … even from outside the university,” said Chen.
According to Chen, Revolution Noodle is still looking for changes to better serve its customers by improving cooking equipment and offering special proteins. Due to the high demand of buns, Revolution Noodle is now seeking help from Dining Services for bun-making equipment to replace the slow hand-making method.
“We try to put in different types of meat … like today we had sliced pork, we had it three days ago and a lot of students liked it … so we tried to bring it back, then we tried a different one again such as pork ribs,” Chen said. “We try to have one pan of a different thing a day for students who like to try varieties, [and] won’t get tired of the same protein options.”
The full interview with Leilana Chen is below.
My name is Leilani Chen, me and my husband own Revolution Noodle and Hunan Express. We had Hunan Express first, and we were asked to open a second spot so we opened Revolution Noodle.
The Tartan: What made you open this restaurant?
We have a restaurant outside of CMU, so we have different concepts, such as Hunan Bar in South Oakland. We have different experiences. Hunan Express was first serving authentic food, like a better, authentic Panda Express. This one we opened up because it was a different concept. Something for the students to try and have more options. Chartwells asked us if we knew how to do noodles. We gave them what we were able to do and they loved it.
Why the name Revolution Noodle?
The Revolution Noodle name came from Chartwells. We were going to do Hunan Noodle House but Chartwells wanted us to keep the name so it was Chartwells retired concept that they just wanted to use.
Who is Chartwells?
We are subcontracted with them. Another company that does food services for students in different kinds of universities.
How long have you been planning for Revolution Noodle?
Just this summer! We were invited to do this this summer and all summer long we’ve been trying to get it open.
What were some challenges you faced?
Pretty much getting it to open and the space. It’s how it is when you open up a restaurant with inflation and everything is so hard to get with equipment and whatnot, and you know getting repairs and stuff, everything else you’d expect that but we are used to it, but it’s more harder now because of Covid and employee-wise too. People who are fixing equipment are short of staff too.
How’s business so far?
So far it’s been good. We didn’t know what to expect or how we would be, but we were hoping it would be something like Hunan, and it is. We are busy and a lot of students really like it and we have a lot of regular customers from Hunan too. A lot of students love it, even from outside the university, regular customers from our restaurant come in and try it and everyone loves it.
I like it too.
It’s really a personal preference. That’s what I tell everyone. It’s really just what you like. Whether you like the concept of Hunan Express or noodle soup with bao buns. We are not in full swing yet for bao buns because we are still waiting for some equipment to get fixed for it. But the noodles are in full.
Any changes you are planning to implement?
Nothing much, trying to get to the swing of what students like. My husband has been doing some specials, like the same thing we do in Hunan, we try to put in different types of meat when we can so students are not getting tired of the regular options. So we have one or two pans of specials; like today we had sliced pork, we had it three days ago and a lot of students liked it and were looking for it, so we tried to bring it back then we tried a different one again such as pork ribs. So we try to have one pan of a different thing a day so students who like to try varieties won’t get tired of the same protein options.