Want a table at Akahoshi Ramen, the anticipated Japanese restaurant in Logan Square from Reddit-famous ramen aficionado Mike Satinover?
Reservations are solidly booked through Friday, December 29 at Satinover’s noodle shop at 2340 N. California Avenue.
Known to fans and followers as Ramen_Lord, Satinover unleashed one of Chicago’s hottest restaurant debuts in years last week when his restaurant debuted. Satinover’s been obsessed with ramen since a trip to Japan, trying new techniques and throwing pop-ups through the last decade. But after all that research, Satinover’s evolution from a passionate amateur to a full-fledged ramen chef is complete.
And the early returns have been positive. Former Tribune critic Nick Kindelsperger, who left the paper for a job at Molson Coors, wrote: “I’m not a food critic anymore, but this is the best ramen I’ve had in Chicago.”
“Pretty wild, I know,” says Satinover. Nevertheless, those who haven’t managed to snag a table won’t necessarily have to wait until 2024 to give it a try — the team is considering adding more slots, and is also serving up to 60 walk-in patrons per day, he says.
Satinover, a suburban Oak Park native, began his love affair with ramen as a college student studying abroad in Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, Japan, where miso ramen was invented. Over the years, he’s become a well-known quantity in Chicago’s pop-up circuit and a regular collaborator with restaurants around town. The restaurant’s name, which translates to “red star,” honors both Chicago and Hokkaido, which both bear red stars on their respective flags.
His experience in Japan is evident on Akahoshi’s food menu, a brief lineup that dispenses with distractions like bao and tempura so the team can focus on consistently executing four types of ramen: Akahoshi miso (Sapporo-style noodles, bean sprouts, menma, pork chashu) and shoyu (Sapporo-style noodles, nori, menma, pork chashu), as well as broth-free tantanmen (extra-thick noodles, ma-la spice, pork soboro, chili oil, bok choy) and aburasoba (extra-thick noodles, garlic, shoyu, cubed chashu).
Restaurants in Japan have historically emphasized specialization, an approach that can fly in the face of a more-is-more attitude seen in plenty of Chicago ramen shops. “I’m generally a fan of constraints,” says Satinover. “It breeds a lot of creativity. It’s much harder to be thoughtful about composition, but when you make those decisions, your execution is better. We’re a niche place so we really have to execute perfectly.”
Though he’d hoped to apply that same philosophy to the restaurant’s design by mimicking Japan’s tiny street-side noodle stands, Chicago’s building regulations ultimately ruled out such a cozy operation. That’s good news for eager patrons, who instead have access to around 55 seats between booths, window seats, counter spots facing the kitchen, and a communal table with room for 20.
In a departure from many of his hospitality counterparts, Satinover has erred on the side of extreme transparency since announcing the project in February, documenting details of Akahoshi’s build-out process in his numerous missives on Instagram. From design renderings from Chicago-based Siren Betty to updates on failed pre-opening inspections (usually relegated to 24-hour Instagram Stories), anyone who cares to click could follow his triumphs and trials.
“I feel like that’s always been who I am — I’m an over-sharer by design,” he says. “I’m not a seasoned professional, so that means I’m going to do some stuff where I don’t know what I’m doing. Being straightforward with that sets appropriate expectations... It’s not going to be perfect, it just needs to be done earnestly, honestly, and compassionately. I’m confident I can figure it out, so that’s kind of been the guiding light so far.”
Stay tuned for more on Logan Square’s newest ramen hot spot.