Gaijin Ramen Bar
The vacation town of Traverse City is home to many amazing restaurants. From Italian to Latin & Asian Fusion, if there is a food you love, then there is a chance you can get it here.
But oddly enough the access to Japanese cuisine was quite limited. Yes, there was sushi, Chinese food chains, and “Pan-Asian upscale cuisine” but at the end of the day, you could just go for a good bowl of ramen.
Harvest is a restaurant with a rotating menu serving locally grown cuisine. This little gem stuck in an alleyway was a fan favorite, but on dish they served up was a smashing hit, Ramen. Thus the idea was born, and the Gaijin Ramen Bar restaurant came to be serving up steaming hot bowls of noodley goodness while putting their own spin on the popular Japanese dish.
This little establishment is emblazoned with manga panels on the wall and little red stools to give it that ramen bar feel. Needless to Say, I was excited to get in and see what they had to offer.
Their Gyoza is amazing for. And this is coming from someone who has eaten fresh Gyoza on a mountain top overlooking Mt. Fuji. Compared to that it is the second best Gyoza I have had. Both Lemongrass and the Pork were delectible. And not a bad price for what you get. Even if you were not terribly hungry, it would be worth stopping in for some Asahi beer and a plate of Gyoza.
Grilled just the right amount, and wonderfully flavorful, this was my favorite thing on the menu.
I had mixed feelings about these the first time I got one. $4 for one bun. Since they have increased it to $4 for two which is I believe a more accurate price for what you get size wise. Otherwise these soft fluffy “taco style” buns are pretty delicious.
The main event! I had the pleasure of going before and after they started making their own in-house noodles. They put together some very nice concoctions with their own twist.
They make their own noodles in house, and have the perfect soft-boiled shoyu eggs.
My only complaint was that with the fresh noodles they do not absorb the same amount of flavor from the broth as an older noodle was. I am sure they are still working on their recipe, but either adding more flavors to the noodle dough or increasing the potency of the broth would make these divine.
The Japanese love their ramen. From fast and cheap, to upscale, and even a Michelin Star Ramen bar exists in Japan. Saying that, I don’t think I paid more than 700 yen for the biggest bowl they had at any place in Tokyo, so I was a little sticker-shocked at the $12, $13, and even $14 dollar bowls. But in retrospect, the pricing is not surprising in a resort/foodie town. I’ve gone back a few times, so obviously the price did not deter me too much. It is pretty comparable to places like Shoryu Ramen in London, and Ivan Ramen in New York.
Overall I would definitely eat at Gaijin Ramen again, and have since it first open. Since they opened they have done nothing but improve and work to make their dishs better and service better! They have great late hours, and I think it will be a perfect place in the off-season to grab some gyoza and work on an article or two, or come in for a nice steaming bowl of ramen once the winter weather of Michigan hits.
Gaijin is located at: 136 E Front St, Traverse City, MI 49684 between Cass and Union St. Towards the middle of the block.
Hours: 11am-10pm Tuesday – Sunday, Closed Monday (Check website to make sure hours are up to date.)