Call it unconventional. Call it over-the-top. You can even call it greasy. Just don't call the ramen burger "college food."
The burger, an all-beef patty stuffed between fresh, chewy ramen noodles in lieu of a bun, and served with a variety of fillings and accompaniments, has captured the appetites of New Yorkers since its debut a month ago, with hundreds of people standing in line to get a bite at Brooklyn's Smorgasburg on Saturdays. For the mashup's mastermind Keizo Shimamoto, it's proof that the American palate has a soft spot for good ramen.
"The ultimate dream is that I want to teach Americans about real ramen, not just instant ramen that we're used to," Shimamoto, 35, told TODAY.com. "Most people in America think 'Oh, college food, instant ramen, cheap,' but real ramen is actually a little more healthy for you than instant ramen and it's actually really good. People take good care in making it."
The ramen aficionado, who blogs about the noodles, can count on at least one new fan—Marilyn Hagerty, the 87-year-old food writer who became a viral sensation because of her Olive Garden review.
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"You just wonder, who would ever think of a ramen burger?" she told TODAY.com after taking a taste. "It is a good combination of flavors with the ramen flavor and the burger ... a very clever way to serve a burger. It does hold up well ... it's a tiny bit oily, you need the napkin, but I think it's got to be the way it is to taste as good as it does. It would be something that would make it for me at lunchtime or maybe in the middle of the afternoon when you're just about ready to eat something, at 4 o'clock."
Unfortunately, she'd be out of luck by 4 p.m.
People start lining up at 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays for a chance to get just one ramen burger, which Shimamoto, who is of Japanese descent and grew up in Los Angeles, says is made with fresh ramen from Sun Noodle in New Jersey.
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"I've been surprised by how excited, curious and interested people are about this—their anticipation is really cool," said Michael Fox, who is producing a documentary short about the fervor around the ramen burger for Edit Beach, his video production company. "It's weird—people have decided they want this and they're resigned to waiting—they have a fear of missing out so they make sure to get there early."