Ramen is coming to campus this spring with Boston’s highly rated Ganko Ittetsu slated to open at 215 Thayer St. in May.
Serving up a unique Sapporo style of ramen, Ken Iwaoka, the restaurant’s owner and head chef, is excited for his shop’s second location to launch on the University’s bustling throughway.
“Thayer Street is a younger generation,” he said. “It’s more trendy and hip than any other place in Providence, especially because of the students.”Set to occupy the former space of Better Burger Company, Ganko Ittetsu will sit next to fellow neighborhood newcomer Pokeworks, which opened its Thayer location Feb. 2018.
“I was worried a little bit about competition at first, but then I realized that poke and ramen are so different,” said Shauntel Keys, assistant manager of Pokework’s Providence location. “I’m actually hoping to do some partnership events.”
Ganko Ittetsu will join a host of Asian style eateries on and around Thayer, including Wow Barbecue, Wong’s Kitchen, Den Den Korean Fried Chicken and Heng Thai and Rotisserie.
But even with Ken’s Ramen down the hill and Asian options on Thayer, Iwaoka maintains that the Sapporo cooking style of his ramen makes his restaurant unique: The vegetables are caramelized with sauce in the wok before being added to the broth, which is not true of other ramen styles.
In addition to this specific preparation, Iwaoka carefully selected his recipe’s soy sauce after sampling 50 varieties in Japan. The soy sauce his restaurant uses is imported to the United States solely for Ganko Ittetsu.
“I spent so much time coming up with the ingredients, and I hope people in Providence who eat ramen will be able to understand and appreciate it,” he said.
Iwaoka will work full-time at the Providence location in its beginning months to train new staff members, whom he plans to hire locally, he said.
Many students agree that Ganko Ittetsu will meet a specific demand on College Hill. “I’m a big supporter of ramen, and we don’t have a designated ramen place on Thayer,” said Joanne Won ’21.
Greg Bohenko, the leasing agent for 215 Thayer St., agreed that ramen will be a unique addition to the area. After seeing the plethora of successful ramen shops in New York and Boston, he recognized a business opportunity in Providence, he said.
“There’s only one ramen shop in Providence,” he said, referring to Ken’s Ramen. “It’s great ramen down there, but it was missing on Thayer.”
Some students feel Ganko Ittetsu will be redundant, given the abundance of somewhat similar options. “Den Den is on Thayer and already has great ramen,” said Makena Ehlert ’20. “Let’s get something new,” she said, adding that her ideal pick would be an eatery like salad chain sweetgreen.
Jimmy Grossman ’18, a self-professed “die-hard ramen fan,” grew up in Oregon eating his mom’s homemade ramen.
“I don’t go to a lot of ramen places on the East Coast, and I’m not really compelled to find another place because Ken’s Ramen is so good, but I’ll eat my words — literally — when a new place opens up on Thayer,” he said, adding that the closer location will be a big draw for ramen fans at Brown.
“I’ll hopefully like it as much as I like Ken’s, but that is a high bar,” Grossman said.