Monster Ramen Tower, now open in Logan Square

Monster Ramen, the new noodle bar from a Strings alum – one of Chicago’s most beloved ramen spots – has overcome months of delays to finally open with bowls of rich, fragrant ramen in rarely regional varieties. seen in Chicago.

Already open for a few weeks at 3435 W. Fullerton Avenue, chef and owner Katie Dong guides the kitchen at Monster. A self-proclaimed noodle obsessed, Dong is ready to show off her knowledge. “I spend all my free time researching and reading about food and culture, and I have my dream job, so I never tire of it,” she says.

Monster Ramen goes wild in Logan Square.

After years of making ramen in town, Dong – a self-taught ramen chef who opened Strings’ first store in Chinatown in 2014 – is finally making ramen on her own terms by making noodles on the spot with a machine from famed maker Sanuki. Menki (the process takes over 24 hours) while serving tori chintan (chicken broth) and gyukotsu-style ramen (buffalo bone broth). The latter, a regional style originating in southern Japan, is particularly hard to find in America, and customers can sample it in shio house ramen (beef jam, yuzu, and shio tare) and miso wagyu ramen (corn, beef chashu and garlic miso tare). Vegetarians can opt for the kombu-based yasai miso ramen or mapo men (a popular riff on mapo tofu available with or without meat).

The menu is peppered with appetizers and sides such as tsukemono (Japanese pickles) and pan-fried or poached gyoza. Dong says she carefully chose lighter foods and avoided fried foods so as not to detract from the main event: the ramen. “I want your stomach 100% saved for the ramen,” she laughs. “I just think it’s too much work for your body. If you’re up for a real bowl of ramen, go for it!

Miso Wagyu (gyukotsu, chashu beef, garlic miso tare, corn).

The proof is at the bottom of Monster Ramen’s empty bowls — so far, customers have tended to finish the whole serving with no leftovers, she says. This reduces food waste for the restaurant as a whole and leaves Dong and his team free to focus on perfecting technique and concocting new creations. These include an experimental ramen with giardiniera, the classic Chicago condiment most often associated with Italian beef. Dong is still perfecting the recipe, which she says is a representation of her Chinese American culinary journey. “I lived in Chicago for 30 years,” she says. “It’s my hometown, apart from where I was born in [Nanjing], China. If I can make this dish, it will be awesome and really represent me.

Monster Ramen’s cramped 1,500 square foot space channels the cramped quarters of cozy ramen dens found in Tokyo’s Japan Station underground mall, but manages to maintain an airy quality with large windows that fill the bar of natural light. The dining hall seats 38 people and Dong hopes to add an outdoor cafe by summer 2023.

Ramen Monster, 3435 W. Fullerton Avenue, open 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday to Sunday.

A wooden ramen bar holds four bowls of different types of ramen.

Monster Ramen offers regional styles that can be hard to find in Chicago.

A low bowl filled with mapo tofu and white rice.

Omnivores and vegetarians can try mapo rice.

Bar patrons can catch owner Katie Dong and her team in action.

About Walter J. Leslie

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