Thursday, December 6, 2012

Main Street Noodle

I am a bit of a ramen fiend.  This is evidenced by the fact that I ate a huge steaming bowl of the stuff at least twice a week while living in Tochigi Prefecture.  There was a wonderful restaurant about a ten-minute walk from my apartment, called "Menmaru," that served what I consider to this day the best miso ramen I have ever had.  It is because of this holy grail of ramen that I always get excited at the prospect of finding a better bowl.  Some days or nights I stop and wonder if buying a round-trip ticket back to that restaurant to get another bowl would be worth it...

The storefront of Main Street Noodle in Stillwater, OK.
I tell you this because there is a new ramen in town, specifically the town in which I currently live.  Stillwater, Oklahoma is now the proud owner of a Japanese noodle restaurant called Main Street Noodle.  I have been waiting over six months for this place to finally open and it did about a week ago and I had the pleasure of having lunch there two days ago.  Here are my thoughts.


The Good

1. It's a five minute drive from my apartment.  I know this doesn't help anyone else, but me and other Stillwater(ites?) really appreciate having a diverse selection of food establishments to from which to choose.

2. The building is fantastically decorated.  Again, nothing to do with the quality of the food, but the outside is very unique by itself and the inside is just full of Chinese and Japanese decorations like bamboo wind chimes, kabuki masks and lots of original artwork made by the owner himself.  It really takes you out of Stillwater and into a different part of the world for a bit.  And it's nice to eat Japanese food without having to endure loud techno music the whole time.

3. The food is not too shabby at all.  Their menu is a little sparse, but they have the staples any noodle lover would need like miso ramen, tonkotsu ramen, kimchi ramen, and gyoza.  We arrived ten minutes after 2pm and apparently their kitchen closes from 2-5 but they let us in anyway, which is a bit of a letdown actually, because I feel like the food we got could have been a little better.  I like my soup piping hot and this seemed a little rushed and just kinda warm.  I naturally got the miso ramen while my wife got the tonkotsu ramen.  Both were pretty good (the best in Oklahoma), but I still long for the days of the real deal back in my second home, Japan.

My miso ramen.  おいしかった!

The Bad

1. The cost.  In Japan, a notoriously expensive country, I think the most I ever paid for a bowl of anything was around $7-something.  The bowls of soup here, even at lunch, will run you about $8.50, which is honestly about $2.50 more than I expected to pay for a bowl of noodle soup.  The taste of the food would have kept me coming regularly, but the price will cut my frequency down to special occasions like birthdays or entertaining out of town guests. $19.00 for lunch for two people is just unacceptable without steak being somehow involved.

2. The menus.  I know this will be small potatoes for 99% of the noodle eating population, but their menu is just atrocious to look at.  Two years ago, I wouldn't have cared, but my "design eyes" have been opened and I found their slapped together mishmash of colored boxes and photos very distracting from the task at hand, ordering food.  It's a shame because the interior and exterior of the building are both so well put together.  The menu should reflect the elegance and Asian charm of the rest of the building and not just be a slapped-together afterthought.

3. "Ray"men.  This is another nitpick that, in the big picture, is of little consequence, but our waitress told us about all the different types of RAYmen that they have.  Really?  You couldn't take one second to find out how the thing that you sell for money is pronounced?  A waitress should be an expert in everything she is charged with selling to customers and that includes how to say the darn things.  People in Oklahoma don't know any better and will think the waitress knows what she is talking about and before you know it, we're eating at a restaurant called "Everybody Loves Raymen".  Again, it's a small thing, and I  know it's Oklahoma, but please take the time to say it right.


"Did she just say what I think she said?"


Conclusion

Main Street Noodle is a good place to eat.  Not great, certainly not "Menmaru" back home, but good.  Throw in the fact that it's pretty much the only place to get real ramen for a long, long way and that makes it that much more precious.

It's too expensive by about 15% plus tip, and the staff seem a little under-educated in all things Asian noodles (they're white college girls, what do you expect?) but it meets a need and that need has gone unmet in this area of the country for a long, looooooong time.  Now we just need some competition to bring the price down. :)

いただきます!

------UPDATE!-------

Some friends from out of town, who also happen to be former English teachers in Japan, came to visit us yesterday and they were craving some ramen, so we took them to Main Street Noodle, and our experience that time was vastly superior to Wife's and my initial visit.

The staff was much more on the ball during dinner time (as opposed to ten minutes after closing) and the food and atmosphere were both better all around.

We ordered a gyoza appetizer this time and it was very delicious, but as most gyoza is, especially here in the US, it was expensive and I would be better served making my own at home.  But it was very good nonetheless.

For round two, instead of ramen, I ordered a bowl of Vietnamese Pho noodles, and it was awesome!  I must preface my praise, however, and warn normal sized people who aren't professional eaters to order the half bowl instead of the full one.  I could have bathed a medium-sized dog in that bowl of soup, it was so large and I made myself sick trying to finish it, which I failed to do.  But, it was delicious.

The best part of the evening came when one of the owners, Dean, came by and entertained us for a while with his charms.  He showed us the best combination of the table-side sauces to make our soups that much better and taught us all how to drink the soup so as to maximize its deliciousness.  He's a good manager because he is very active in keeping all the customers happy.

All in all, it was a delicious meal, sprinkled with lots of laughs and good times.  I highly recommend Main Street Noodle, though I still find it a little too pricey.

いただきます!

4 comments:

  1. Hey Jimbo - nice review. I like the fact that you seem to have your camera with you always. Aside from a MAC at work and a PC at home, the most hi-tech gadget I have is a 10MP camera. And I would have to decide to carry it at any given time. I would get a cell, but considering I don't want to be bothered when I'm not at work or home, what is the point. I hope the restaurant does well. Do they have a website you can leave feedback on?

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    1. I just used my cell phone camera for these pictures. They're not great, but they get the job done.

      I know Main Street Noodle has a Facebook page, but I don't believe they have a dedicated website.

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  2. By the way... do you know of a free blog host where I can sell my own advertising on my site?

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    Replies
    1. I'm afraid that I don't. My answer would be to ask Google.

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