The Kyuramen crew: (from left) Miao Chen, Terry Wilson, Hui Zhu and Chef Zhixin Hu, standing in front of Kyuramen’s private dining tables, anticipate opening during the first week of April. | Melissa Elsmo

Local food lovers are pressing their noses to the window of Kyuramen, 118 N. Marion St., to assess the progress on the highly anticipated arrival of ramen in downtown Oak Park. Barring any unforeseen delays the restaurant anticipates opening on (or near) Friday, April 8.

On a recent weekday one such voyeur took co-owner Terry Wilson up on his invitation to enter the near-finished restaurant. She breezed through the dining room declaring excitedly that she had “audibly gasped from across the street” when she saw how close the shop was to opening. She snapped a few photographs, committed to visiting the restaurant on opening day, and left just as quickly as she had arrived.  In addition to in-person visits Kyuramen watchers are regularly posting to social media about the opening — posts are amassing hundreds of likes and comments urging the business to “hurry up and open.”

Looks like noodle lovers will need to queue up for Kyuramen.

Wilson, who brings 16 years of global restaurant experience to the Oak Park Kyuramen endeavor, ensures he and his business partners are ready to accommodate the high demand Kyuramen’s opening will likely create in the community. The noodle shop will welcome both leisurely diners and those who come in for a quick meal. In addition to serving quick-serve dishes like ramen, Chef Zhixin Hu has been busy perfecting flashier dishes like omurice — the fried rice dish topped with a soft egg omelet is finished tableside with servers dramatically splitting the delicate egg bundle to create a pleasing waterfall effect.

The rapidly growing global franchise has more than 120 locations worldwide with more than 100 locations in Japan. Stateside there are three New York shops and 10 states, from California to Massachusetts, have opened or are preparing to open Kyuramen locations. Wilson and his partners Hui Zhu, Miao Chang along with Chef Zhixin Hu are bringing the Kyuramen experience to Illinois for the first time.

The “wishing tree” is an interactive art installation inside Kyuramen on Marion Street in Oak Park. | Melissa Elsmo

The Oak Park noodle shop passed its health inspection last week. An important milestone, passing the heath inspection frees Kyuramen owners to bring food into the establishment and begin training their staff. Ingredients have been ordered and are expected to arrive on Wednesday, March 30; final village inspections were scheduled for Tuesday, March 29.

Initially Wilson and Zhu anticipated opening Kyuramen in August 2021, but pandemic related supply chain delays impacted the young restaurant.

“We waited six months to get an ice machine,” said Wilson matter-of-factly. “And getting the sheer amount of bamboo we needed into the country was also challenging.”

Millwork and carpentry are at the heart of the Kyuramen aesthetic; diners can expect a bounty of bamboo to create a streamlined, yet welcoming environment. A wall of inviting private dining cubicles join traditional dining tables in the front of the house while a generously sized noodle bar at the back of the restaurant offers a counter service option.

A thoughtful “wishing” tree and wall anchor the bamboo theme and give diners an interactive opportunity to leave their thoughts behind after a enjoying a bowl of chicken, pork or vegetarian ramen.

“Everyone will have the chance to write down a wish on one of these and hang it up,” said Wilson. “The wishes will become part of the restaurant. We want them to represent hope and joy in the community.”

Let the ramen countdown commence!

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