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Japanese restaurateur opens Chicago Ramen in Park Ridge, his 9th location

A Japanese restaurateur expanded his chain of eateries to nine by opening a Chicago Ramen location in Park Ridge in late March. Chef and Owner Kenta Ikehata told Pioneer Press he isn’t quite ready to finish his expansion in the northern suburbs, and perhaps the whole world.

According to Ikehata, Chicago Ramen, located at 1056 Busse Parkway, the former location of the Frosty Penguin Grill, has a simple layout and menu, similar to ramen restaurants in Tokyo.

Park Ridge’s Chicago Ramen includes tsukemen, a dish in which diners dip the ramen noodles into broth, as well as red and white miso ramen, beef, chicken, and tofu ramen. The menu also has appetizers and Japanese hot dogs, with traditional fillings and meat on a bun.

Keeping in tradition with Japanese ramen restaurants, Ikehata said it was no problem to turn the Frosty Penguin into Chicago Ramen, with seating for 10 to15 customers and three to five employees. He described the concept as “fast food,” and while it’s not akin to hamburgers wrapped in foil placed in paper bags, it’s more about the speed of the service and bringing customers in and giving them the ability to dine and leave without a long wait.

But the comparison to fast food doesn’t stop there, at least for Ikehata. He said he moved from Los Angeles to the Chicago area, more specifically to Des Plaines, where his goal was to emulate the success of McDonald’s.

“The first (franchised) restaurant for McDonald’s opened in Des Plaines. So that’s why I came to this area, to become famous worldwide,” Ikehata said.

Ikehata said the process to make the broth for the ramen is simple, but time consuming, and takes about 14-16 hours. He his workers already come with years of experience working in ramen restaurants.

Ikehata said he learned how to cook at Tsujita in Tokyo and moved to Los Angeles when Tsujita expanded to the United States. He moved to the Chicago area in 2020 and has since been featured in a Chicago Tribune list of best ramen restaurants. He has opened nine restaurants since then and plans to open three more.

The restaurants are in Des Plaines, Schaumburg, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wheeling, Algonquin, Palatine and Mundelein and new ones will be coming to Palatine and Crystal Lake.