Plans to open Grand Rapids' first ramen noodle bar could soon bring fresh, healthy eats to the city's lunchtime diners and late-night munchers. Torrance O'Haire, chef and owner of Propaganda Doughnuts at 117 S. Division Ave., is advancing the French pastry shop to a planned phase two: The Bandit Queen -- Ramen Shop, Public House, Purveyor of Fine Teas, and Respite for the Modern Day Adventurer.
The Bandit Queen will open next door in 117-B, and will share Propaganda Doughnuts' kitchen, but otherwise the two eateries will be separate entities.
"My joking answer is always 'because I want to eat it,'" says O'Haire with a laugh when asked 'Why ramen noodles?'" "After my years of work in the service industry, you'd work a long day, you don't want to eat junk food, I'd want to get out of the restaurant I've been chained to every day, everything is closed, and you want a place to go to eat what's not garbage food, not bar food, not hot dogs. There must be lots of other people that are the same way."
A just-launched Indiegogo
crowdfunding campaign bills the place as a "turn-of-the-century bar, serving not whiskey, but Ramen noodles and other East-Asian street-food specialties not currently represented in West Michigan."
Patrons will belly up to a bar that seats 15 - 16 people, and order from the "bartender" off a menu that includes vegan and gluten free options, with selections that change daily. While the focus is on ramen noodles -- a wheat-flour noodle processed with an alkaline solution to bind the gluten tight and produce what O'Haire dubs a "toothsome quality" -- gluten-free options will include tteok, a Korean gnocchi-style dumpling made from rice flour.
Guests will choose between a classic ramen broth or vegan broth, and then can top it with fresh, locally sourced ingredients that include fish, herbs, slow-braised pork belly, roast pork shoulder, pickled vegetables, poached eggs, pickled carrots, and pickled watermelon. Because meats and poultry are locally sourced and selected when in-season, just as the vegetables are, all toppings will cycle with the seasons.
"The ramen trend is booming nationally, and, as loathe as I am to latch onto trends and buzzwords, it's fun to bring something to Grand Rapids that we don't already have," O'Haire says.
The Bandit Queen makes its debut with a selection of Asian street food at the Local First Street Party
on June 7. The restaurant opens in mid-July.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Bandit Queen
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