Prospect Heights ramen shop Chuko Ramen aspires to be “the Levi's of ramen shops. We want it to have a very comfortable, timeless quality,” says Jamison Blankenship, who owns the place with James Sato and David Koon. The trio met at Morimoto and became noodle-obsessed. In 2011, they opened what was supposed to be a regular old neighborhood ramen shop on Vanderbilt Avenue, immediately endearing themselves to the area's families while drawing ramen aficionados from across the city. These days queues are all but guaranteed (though at least now you can drink while you wait at the affiliated Bar Chuko right down the street), and the team makes more than 2,000 bowls of soup a week for the cozy 30-seat shop. The chefs wanted to represent ramen styles beyond the ubiquitous pork-bone-based tonkotsu, and their menu features shoyu, kimchi, and vegetarian soups, too. That vegetarian is the sleeper hit, laced as it is with miso and market vegetables. Blankenship says the kale salad, littered with crisp sweet potato, is surprisingly popular, as are the cans of sake, a highlight of the short drink menu. Look for Chuko Ramen to expand out of the neighborhood in 2015: Blankenship says a Bushwick outpost is due this spring.
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