One of the last things in the world I want to hear before walking into a restaurant is the phrase “Have you been here before?” This implies that the menu is overly complicated. It lets the customer know that this is not going to be a regular dining experience.
I like to think that I’m a somewhat adventurous guy when it comes to food. Trying new things is fun for me, and I’ll gladly pony up some extra dough when I know that the food I’ll be eating is going to be unlike anything I’ve ever had before.
But when I heard the hostess sidle up to me and say those fateful words, I knew my chances of having a normal meal at this particular place were not very good.
I was in the mood for spicy last night, so as I perused the menu I noticed a few of the items had little flaming hot peppers next to them. Within five minutes, I had chosen a ramen bowl which would come with garlic, an egg, some red chili peppers, and a broth that promised to bring the heat.
Ramen shops are all the rage right now and I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. I gave in after reading a review about one particular restaurant near my apartment that was generating a lot of buzz.
This inane craze appears to have been brought on by more pretentious cities than mine on the west and east coasts (I’m looking at you San Francisco and NYC) although I won’t be so daft as to say that the only reason ramen shops are everywhere now is because of coastal cities.
I think the main reason wee see these ramen restaurants popping up all over the place is pretty simple – the ingredients are cheap. With broths of varying thickness and flavor, pork, chicken, and then a shit load of veggies (obviously accompanied by ramen noodles) are the only ingredients in a standard bowl of ramen. Food costs are low, and you can charge as much as you want for a bowl of this stuff because people love trends.
So I guess my biggest problem with ramen is that you can obviously make something comparable at home for less than half the price of a large bowl that you would get at a restaurant.
I had trouble getting that out of my head last night as I slurped down an admittedly hearty broth and ramen noodles. Was the broth good? Hell yeah, but I paid twelve dollars for that and the privilege of sitting inside a restaurant where they were blaring rap music and I could hardly hear myself think.
What is your argument for a ramen shop? Yeah, you probably won’t be able to make as good a broth as some of these restaurants where they meticulously tend to it for hours, but at the end of the day, you have to realize that you’re just eating salted pork and fucking ramen noodles. You know, those same noodles that you used to shovel down your fat face after drinking fourteen Busch Lights at a less than stellar fraternity party? Most of the time you wouldn’t even wait to sit down, either.
You’d dump that chicken flavored packet of salt and MSG into a bowl and stand in front of the microwave to eat your meal. Now I’m paying out the ass at a sit-down, fast-casual restaurant for what? Broth? Get the fuck outta here with that.
Ramen is also often described as a slurping food. If you can’t guess what that means, I’ll go ahead and tell you. Every time you want a bite, you’ve first got to get those chopsticks placed correctly in your hand. Then, you take this little ladle/spoon and with both hands, raise chopsticks full of ramen noodle and ladle of broth and veggies into your mouth.
In short, an entire restaurant doing this is not a pretty sight to see. Slurps, groans of enjoyment, and quips from annoying hipsters like “Oooohhhhhh yeah this pork bone broth is divine tonight!” surround you.
If I could rid my city of two kinds of restaurants right now, I’d probably choose anything that serves small plates and these overly-hyped, fad-tastic ramen shops. They’re both for the birds, and the next time I want some ramen noodles I’ll go to my local grocery store and buy a Cup O’ Noodles for sixty cents. Foodies and the trends that they latch onto are truly unbelievable sometimes. .
Image via Unsplash