Whether or not Houstonians ever fully embrace ramen to the same extent to which diners slurp pho is an open question, but out-of-town operators are betting heavily that the answer is yes.
Already, California-based Jinya Ramen and Seattle-based Samurai Noodle each have two locations in the city, and Austin-based Ramen Tatsu-ya has received its initial City of Houston permits to begin construction on its Montrose location. Now, another ramen shop wants to call the Bayou City home.
Beginning later this year, Hawaii-based chain AGU Ramen has plans to open at least 12 locations across the Houston area before turning to Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, chef/owner Hisashi “Teddy” Uehara tells CultureMap in an email.
He's currently scouting options along Washington Ave as well as possibilities in Midtown, EaDo, and downtown for AGU's first mainland location. If all goes according to plan, AGU will debut sometime this summer.
"I always had dream to open in Houston," Uehara writes. "There are many people moving to Houston and there is a great opportunity for a business such as ours to open in such a wonderful city . . . Houston reminds me of Hawaii in some ways. I have met many people on this last visit for Japan Festival 2016 as well as a previous visit earlier this year, and throughout the duration of both visits I felt the 'Aloha' or welcome by the people of Houston."
Since it opened in 2013, AGU has grown to four locations on the island of Oahu. Uehara credits the work he puts into both his tonkotsu pork broth, which boils for more than 18 hours, and a chicken stock that uses organic, cage-free Jidori chicken. Houstonians who attended the recent Japan Festival got a first taste of AGU, and Uehara writes that diners responded favorably.
"The line never died down, everyone who had our ramen commented that we are the best ramen in Houston and they cannot wait AGU to open. Some of the people came a few times."