Two ramen restaurants — sitting 400 feet apart — have opened recently in downtown Salt Lake City. Both serve hearty bowls of steaming noodle soup and are the second restaurants for their respective owners.
The similarities end there.
Ramen Bar is a full-service restaurant at 319 Main, where servers seat guests, bring menus and drinks and then take orders.
Ramen930 is a fast, casual eatery half a block north and half a block east, at 45 E. 300 South, where guests order at the counter, grab their own drinks and cutlery and place a number on their table so the staff knows where to deliver the food.
Ramen Bar is quiet and elegant with the low lighting of a fine-dining restaurant. Ramen930 is loud, with funky artwork and a wall of windows that lets in natural light.
Ramen Bar has a state license that allows customers to enjoy Japanese beer and sake with their meals. Ramen930 operates sans liquor.
These dueling restaurants are not only battling each other for downtown dining dollars but also competing against several established ramen restaurants in Salt Lake City, including Tosh’s Ramen, Jinya Ramen Bar and Yoko Ramen.
Take a closer look to see how each measures up.
Atmosphere • This small, sit-down restaurant seats about 40 and has an intimate, urban vibe. The front windows look onto Main Street; a second window — behind the bar — provides a glimpse into the tiny kitchen, where Sergei Oveson and his wife and co-owner, Shani Oveson, cook everything. “We try to focus on the quality rather than quantity,” Sergei said. “We do everything from the shopping to the prepping of fresh ingredients. We’re here 10 to 12 hours a day.”
Ramen • From traditional and spicy pork to chicken and vegetable, there are six types of ramen on the menu, all $10 to $11 per bowl. The pork broth is cooked for 36 hours, plus additional simmering time, making it rich and fragrant. Every ramen shop has its own noodles. Ramen Bar’s owners sampled many before settling on fresh noodles made in California and shipped in regularly. The noodles are made the traditional Japanese way with eggs, flour and alkalized water, said Shani. “That’s what gives it that bite.”
Sides • Izakaya, small meat and vegetable skewers — think shrimp and scallions or bacon-wrapped asparagus — also are part of the menu. Brushed with sauce and cooked over a hot lava grill, these two-piece bites ($3 to $5) have a tantalizing smoky flavor, but seem small for the price.
Extras • The restaurant has a state liquor license that allows guests who order food to also enjoy wine, Japanese beer or several types of sake — from Asian pear and coconut-lemongrass to plum-infused hot sake. Alcoholic drinks range from $5 to $12.
Background • Sergei Oveson worked in Los Angles and Washington, D.C., before coming to Salt Lake City, where he spent time in the kitchen at Tosh’s Ramen. It’s also where he met Shani, who previously was the general manager at Naked Fish. “We’ve put all our years of knowledge together to open this restaurant,” Sergei said. The couple opened Ramen Haus in 2017 in Ogden, earning praise for its ramen and honey toast, a Japanese bread pudding made with brioche, ice cream and fresh fruit. The dessert is also available at Ramen Bar.
Details • 319 S. Main; 801-393-3000 or facebook.com/ramen.haus/. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.
Atmosphere • The orange and black wallpaper and menu boards perk up the otherwise fast, casual feel. Downtown workers and travelers who don’t have a lot of time — but still want warm, soothing ramen — are willing to forgo fancy design for efficiency, said Drew Allen, the co-owner with business partner Sean Lim. On a recent Tuesday, a few minutes after noon, the line to order was at least 10 deep. Luckily, there is seating for 94, including a long bar, where diners can look out the windows onto 300 South.
Ramen • The all-important pork-bone broth is boiled for more than 20 hours, said Allen, and it is the base for three of the most popular ramens: traditional tonkotsu, black garlic pork and niku (spicy pork). “It’s sit-down-quality ramen served in a fast, casual setting,” he said. Five more options — salt, shoyu, vegetable, tofu and curry — round out the list of ramens, which range from $9.45 to $10.45 a bowl, except the niku, which is $13.45. All come topped with a hard egg, bean sprouts and scallions.
Sides • The deep-fried takoyaki balls — made with minced octopus and tempura scraps — are interesting and worth ordering. Allen said the golden bites drizzled with Japanese mayo and katsu sauce are often depicted in Japanese anime, so fans of the computer-generated shows have made them a popular item. Seaweed salad, edamame, gyoza (pot stickers) and chicken karaage — Japanese fried chicken — are other popular meal add-ons.
Extras • Beginning this month, Ramen930 added the rice and noodle bowls from Cup Bop to its menu. “We wanted to diversify a little bit,” explained Allen, who said customers now don’t have to wait for the Thursday Food Truck Rally at the Gallivan Center to enjoy the Korean food truck’s menu.
Background • Allen is originally from Logan and studied economics and international business at Utah State University. Through a mutual friend, he met Lim, who learned to make traditional ramen while studying under a Japanese chef. The duo opened the first Ramen930 restaurant in Lehi in March 2018. The two immediately began expansion plans into Salt Lake City.
Details • 45 E. Broadway, Salt Lake City; 385-522-2742 or ramen930.com/. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.