Americans are increasingly familiar with abura soba — ramen noodles served without broth. A Japanese chain with more than 100 locations, Kajiken, specializes in these bowls and has helped spread its popularity with locations in Baltimore and near San Francisco.
Now it’s Chicago’s turn, just in time for summer.
Kajiken debuted recently inside Chinatown Square. It’s a bright and vibrant space with light wood and modern finishes. Chicago is no stranger to the form. In a suburban Des Planes strip mall, just north of the city, Chicago Ramen has been treating customers to soupless ramen since 2020. That ramen shop gives diners a pictorial instruction guide on how to eat the noodles at their tables. Kajiken’s bowls are customizable with toppings like chasu, eggs, chili oil, and bamboo shoots. There is also a bevy of appetizers like karaage, deep-fried squid, and, of course, ramen soup.
Chinatown restaurateur Tony Hu is behind this opening as he’s brought an influx of new restaurants to the neighborhood. He also assisted in bringing another ramen shop, Kyuramen, to a high-profile location in River North. Hu broke through the mainstream with Lao Sze Chuan, with locations in Chinatown and Uptown. A third location, off Michigan Avenue, recently filed for bankruptcy. Hu didn’t say much about that process, only that the restaurant and the landlord have differing opinions.
Despite any financial woes, the Hu machine continues to chug. Walk through the Chicago location of Kajiken below.
Kajiken, 2161 S. China Place, open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily, open until 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Satuday.