Momofuku Ando, the late Japanese entrepreneur and creator of instant ramen, had numerous claims to fame. Born in 1910 in Taiwan under Japanese occupation, he was well-known as a quirky character who saw his invention as a way to help address widespread hunger in post-World War II Japan. He went on to found Nissin Foods, the company behind Top Ramen and Cup Noodles, and is the namesake of celebrity chef David Chang’s restaurant group.
To adherents, Ando is particularly notable for his philosophical vision, summed up best by one of his most oft-repeated (and puzzled-over) quote, immortalized in print in Nissin’s employee handbook: “Mankind is noodlekind,” he told his workers. In essence, he wanted the public to recognize the immense potential of a bowl of noodles and its ability to sate the physical and emotional cravings of human beings the world over, regardless of class or circumstance.
Ando’s message of noodle universality was prescient and can provide helpful insight for Chicagoans seeking to understand a ramen phenomenon unfolding in Logan Square. Akahoshi Ramen, the new ramen shop from chef and owner Mike Satinover (long known on Reddit as Ramen_Lord) that opened in late November, has rocketed to local stardom in just weeks.
One of the hottest reservations in town, Akahoshi is booked solid through the end of 2023, though the team is also serving up to 60 walk-in patrons per day. The early returns have only escalated the hype, including rave reviews from current and former dining critics that laud the menu — a tight lineup of Akahoshi miso ramen, shoyu ramen, tantanmen, and aburasoba, along with chashu and ikura rice bowls — as a top contender bringing fresh energy into the city’s chain-dominated ramen scene.
Satinover, who first encountered ramen as a college student studying abroad in Hokkaido, Japan, has spent more than a decade studying ramen, practicing techniques, and sharing what he’s learned on social media. As a white American making Japanese ramen (itself an adaptation of Chinese noodle soups), he wants diners to understand that he’s an enthusiast, not an expert.
“I don’t know how I feel about being dubbed ‘the best,’” says Satinover. “‘Best’ is a subjective thing... my ‘best’ ramen is not someone else’s best ramen. But I do think I have a lot to offer the Chicago ramen scene.”
Ramen aficionados will be quick to point out that Akahoshi’s bowls are a far cry from styrofoam cups of flash-fried, shelf-stable noodles, but it’s easy to imagine that Ando would embrace the story of Satinover, an Oak Park native who fell in love with ramen and wants to feed his community, located more than 6,000 miles away from Japan.
Explore Akahoshi Ramen’s menu and 55-seat restaurant designed by prolific Chicago firm Siren Betty in the photographs below.