A Japanese restaurant known for its chewy noodles has set its sights on Houston. Marugame Udon will open as many as six locations in the Greater Houston area, strategic consultant Mark Brezinski tells CultureMap.
The restaurant comes to the Bayou City via Japan; it has over 1,000 locations worldwide, including outposts in Hawaii, California, and Dallas. Its interest in the Houston market has been reported previously, but the company is just now finalizing its initial locations.
Brezinski, who co-founded Pei Wei and Velvet Taco, says the company is in final negotiations to open in Post Oak Plaza, the shopping center at the corner of San Felipe and Post Oak that will soon be home to the relocated Kenny & Ziggy’s. Other possibilities include Sugar Land, Katy, West Houston, and Clear Lake. Expect the first location to open within the next six months or so.
“Everyone knows Houston is a much more diverse demographic city than Dallas is,” Brezinski says. “I think that Houston has such a growing population, such a strong Asian influence and Asian demographic makes it a natural for us”
Marugame serves udon made with Sanuki-style noodles that are both chewy and tender. Diners order cafeteria-style, watching the noodles get boiled. Then, they’re added to broth with a selection of different toppings and garnishes. Curry Nikutama, sweet beef and poached egg with curry sauce, is one top seller.
To broaden the menu’s appeal beyond noodle lovers, the restaurant also serves tempura items such as chicken, shrimp, and vegetables as well as robata skewers. Marugame has also jumped on the sando trend with options such as crispy chicken and egg salad alongside a wagyu cheeseburger. Diners may dine-in or take their food to-go.
“We get great marks in the reviews we’ve had for how our food travels. We’re trying to expand the menu into items that travel well,” Brezinski says. “That’s part of what our group is trying to do is adjust the concept from being a predominantly dine-in, cafeteria-style concept to a much broader appeal takeaway format that’s more user friendly.”
Prices are reasonable, too. A basic bowl of udon costs about $6. Tempura items cost about $2, and robata skewers are less than $5 each. If Houstonians embrace the restaurant, it could grow to other parts of the country.
“I think Houston and Dallas are the top two cities where people spend the most per capita eating out,” Brezinski says. “It’s a natural for us to give this concept a whirl in both of those markets.”
Teresa Gubbins contributed to this article.