This past Monday, notable noodle purveyors Chuko Ramen began serving dinner in their Bushwick location at 144 Evergreen Avenue. Now, North Brooklynites will no longer have to make their way to Prospect Heights to enjoy a bowl of Chuko’s flavor-packed veggie miso ramen or their celebrated kale salad.
It’s been a long time coming. Jamison Blankenship, one of Chuko’s owners, tells me this location has been in the works for about four years now. They were anticipating opening a year and a half ago, but a seemingly unending slew of DOB issues made that complicated. “We were hoping to beat Ichiran and everything else,” Blankenship says.
The Bushwick location’s design is familiar enough to feel cut from the same cloth as the Prospect Heights restaurant, but it aims to cater more to the neighborhood’s energy. It may even have later hours. “We want this to be more rowdy and fun,” Blankenship says.
It certainly shows, as much of the walls are transformed by a vibrant and colorful mural done by artist Josh Cochran back in 2015. There’s no liquor license quite yet (that’s coming next week, they hope) so in the meantime Chuko’s manager Brooke Sweeten has filled the bar shelves with a variety of Japanese cartoon plushes, from familiar Pokemon faces to Gudetama, the lackadaisical egg with a face from Sanrio.
The menu is the same reliable fare, with an array of small bites like brussels sprouts with fish sauce, pork buns, and okonomiyaki-style tots. And then, of course, there’s the ramen. Hungry guests can choose from seven varieties of soup: soy or veggie soy, miso or veggie miso, chicken bone, pork bone, or kimchi. For any of these, you can also select from various sorts of meat (or fried tofu) and an egg, cooked hard or soft. Add-ons are plentiful, such as extra veggies, a serving of their fiery garlic chili oil, or simpler options for younger kids.
Chuko gets fresh ramen noodles delivered three times a week from Sun Noodle, a Hawaiian company with factories scattered across the country, including one in nearby New Jersey. (It’s been described as “the secret weapon of America’s best ramen shops.”) The factory’s proximity allows Blankenship and the other owners a more hands-on role in developing and refining new noodle ventures, as they’re able to test out new flours and formulas.
“Almost each one of our soups has its own type of noodle,” Blankenship goes on to explain. Miso and kimchi get a thicker, curlier noodle, soy and veggie soy get a slimmer and straighter noodle with a nuttier taste, and the pork or chicken bone broths pair with a thinner noodle due to the richness of the soup. Aside from the noodles, they cook everything themselves.
“I think we want to be the Levi’s of ramen shops. Something that is very democratic, comfortable, timeless,” Blankenship says, a goal he’s articulated several times in the past. “Some places won’t let you take your leftovers to go. You can do whatever you want. You want to mix and match? You can do whatever you want.”
Chuko is only open for dinner now, but plan to expand to lunch in the near future. The new location means wait times (for now) are shorter than at their other location, which are notoriously lengthy. So, get thee to Evergreen and beat the crowd while you still can.
Chuko Ramen is located at 144 Evergreen Avenue in Bushwick.