In the last year, a small storefront in the center of Wicker Park has been home to a convenience store, a fast-casual Indian and Mediterranean restaurant, and a counter-service hot dog spot. Now, in a few months, 1571 N. Milwaukee Avenue will house a ramen shop from chef Shin Thompson and the business partnership behind Takito Kitchen and Bar Takito.
Thompson (Bonsoiree, Kabocha), Mario Ponce and Anshul Mangal signed a lease on Tuesday and will open Furious Spoon, an affordable, counter-service, late-night, 50-or-so-seat ramen spot that will "look like a traditional ramen shop in Tokyo," according to Mangal. Customers will order and pay at the counter, receive a ticket and have their ramen brought to their table.
"I really want this idea of eating quickly ‘at a furious pace' to catch on," Thompson says. "Ramen, how I've known it growing up, is peasant food."
Based on the chef's roots—his grandfather owned a ramen shop in northern Japan—Thompson will churn out four types of mostly traditional ramen for under $10 each until the wee hours in one of the highest traffic areas in Chicago. Look for one less-traditional ramen, one vegetarian option, Japanese beer, sake, and a few sides to be available.
Thompson says he's not just jumping on the ramen bandwagon haphazardly. "This whole ramen craze just came up recently, but I had the idea 10 years ago," he says. "At the time, no one took ramen seriously and it didn't seem like a good idea."
After closing Kabocha, where he had a ramen special at the bar, Thompson turned back to ramen. He traveled to Japan in March to study the noodle and broth and returned with an antique machine that he'll use to make the noodles in house.
In an interesting twist, Thompson's new business partners, Ponce and Mangul, are the ones who took over his shuttered West Loop space and turned it into Bar Takito. "I knew Mario (Ponce), he's (also) a commercial real estate broker, I introduced him to the Kabocha space," Thompson explains.
Meanwhile, the owners of the longtime neighborhood Food Mart were struggling to keep up with the gentrification and ballooning food and drink scene in Wicker Park. Claiming they lost business when the massive tri-level Walgreens opened in 2012, ownership subsequently tried three different fast-casual food concepts in the space, but refused to sell alcohol and failed to latch onto late-night business in the nightlife-heavy neighborhood.
Thompson, Mangal, and Ponce saw the space and thought the size as well as the foot traffic and late-night crowd in the heart of Wicker Park was perfect for Furious Spoon. Mangal says they tried to secure the prime location for the last six months and previous ownership finally threw in the towel earlier this week.
Buildout will commence within days and Thompson hopes to open Furious Spoon, the recreation of grandfather's ramen shop and his most authentically Japanese concept, in February.