Ichiran Ramen specializes in tonkotsu ramen since it first opened in 1960 in Fukuoka as a tiny ramen stall. Since 1993, Ichiran has been expanding from a single stall to an international franchise with an iconic solo-dining concept as its blueprint. After opening many locations in Japan, and some in Hong Kong, Taipei, and New York, Ichiran opened on Times Square last month.
Times Square is an obvious choice for Ichiran. With over a quarter of a million people crossing Times Square each day, customers are guaranteed. However, Ichiran might just be the ramen bar of choice for different demographic; those trying to avoid the teeming crowds of Times Square. At Ichiran, you order through a machine at the entrance or through an order form. You take a seat in one of the solo dining booths and wait until your ramen is served to you from the little window in front of you. To see the server, you press a call button at your booth.
Ichiran developed the solo dining booth as a way for customers “to allow to focus on the flavors of your bowl with minimal distractions” instead of focusing on the many distractions that characterize ramen restaurants. You’re encouraged to indulge in your ramen in your own way, at your own pace, without noises, without waiters, friends, and family members breathing down your neck, and without strangers staring at you.
With more and more people in cities living alone, going out for dinner alone might just be a logical result of a generation that is trying to be more ‘present’. Moving to the countryside might just be the next step after you discover the benefits of being alone at Ichiran.