River North has a new ramen shop, part of an ongoing effort by Tony Hu to bring Asian chains to Chicago. Hu, the founder of Lao Sze Chuan, and his team welcome Kyuramen to Chicago in December, taking over the space vacated by Imperial Lamian on the corner of State and Hubbard.
Founded in 2014 by New York City entrepreneur Gary Lin, Kyuramen set out to highlight the regional character of ramen with varieties drawn from various parts of the country, such as Kyushu’s shio style, Tokyo’s shoyu style, and Hokkaido’s miso style. Lin has significant ambitions for the company and told reporters in 2020 that he hopes it will become the “Starbucks of ramen in the U.S.”
Sure enough, Kyuramen has in recent years flourished into a prolific chain of franchise restaurants with more than 120 locations in Japan and the U.S. It first landed in Illinois in April 2022 with the debut of an outpost in suburban Oak Park, but Hu is the first restaurateur to bring Kyuramen to the city proper.
The ramen restaurant’s opening will at last bring diners back inside the former home of Imperial Lamian, a popular and well-regarded Chinese restaurant known for springy hand-pulled noodles and some of the best xiao long bao in town. The upscale, Indonesian-owned venue closed in November 2020 after more than four years in business and its building has sat dormant ever since.
In the photos below, walk through the space and check out the dishes, including the house special, Mega Ramen (pork chashu, shrimp, bamboo shoot, wakame, half-marinated egg, nori, corn, scallion). Kyruramen is open in tandem with Tbaar, a Brooklyn tea chain founded by Lin in 2006 in Brooklyn.