Ton-Ichi serves up ramen and immersive vibes


Kaavya Butaney/The Daily Northwestern

Ton-Ichi ramen is decorated to immerse customers in Japanese elements to make them feel as though they are in Japan.

Kaavya Butaney, Reporter

As customers open the door of Ton-Ichi Ramen, a new ramen restaurant in Evanston, they are met with a fake cherry blossom tree at the window and walls lined with Japanese street paper. 

As they dine, they’re surrounded by colorful, patterned parasols and red and white lanterns. At the end of the meal, they might even be offered a wooden panel to write their wishes for Ton-Ichi’s wish wall. 

Manager Jessica He said the restaurant prioritizes food at an affordable price, served late at night.

When Toni-Ichi was first planned in 2019, He said there were no restaurants close to Northwestern’s campus that served “real Japanese ramen.”

“Ramen noodle is best,” Jessica He said. “Easy noodle, warm soup, bowl, (will) give you warm heart.”

The restaurant’s location, less than a five minute walk from Allison Hall, makes it a popular restaurant for students. Jessica He estimated that 80% of Ton-Ichi’s customers are NU students.

Restaurants on Clark Street generally have high proportions of student customers. Kung Fu Tea, right next door, also has primarily student customers. Kung Fu Tea manager Xiaoyu He said 80% of its customers are students as well.

“Late at night, like midnight, they don’t have (a) place to buy food,” Jessica He said. “Maybe they’ve been in the library all day. They are so hungry and if they want to order food, they have to walk so far away.”

The restaurant is always open until at least 11 p.m. and is open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Medill junior Jennifer Kim said on Sundays, many of her fellow Korean and Korean-American students want hot soup after a night out. 

With other local Korean restaurants closed on Sundays, Ton-Ichi becomes a go-to spot. Kim said she went to the restaurant three times in one week.

“I was willing to go there every time someone asked me to,” Kim said. “It is becoming more popular, especially among my friends … It’s very unique, the mood.”

Jessica He said the restaurant aims to feel like a Japanese street –– its wish wall especially.

The wish wall is a reference to a Japanese tradition in which people drop a coin into fountains and make a wish, Jessica He said. The restaurant wanted an easier alternative to continue to immerse its customers in Japanese culture.

The decor is still in progress, He said. The restaurant is considering adding a TV playing Japanese cartoons, like the Japanese manga series “One Piece.”

“I think everyone is going to taste every ramen location in Evanston,” Jessica He said. “But then they come back here. It’s true. Some of them every day.”

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Twitter: @kaavya_butaney

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