By now, your desire for iced drinks and frozen treats have probably faded away and your new desire for something warm and cozy may be starting to surface. I don’t know about you guys, but a warm bowl of ramen usually pops into my head a lot these days.
But I’m not talking about any average instant cup of ramen so commonly associated with the college student diet. I’m talking about the authentic, Japanese ramen that happens to come in an actual bowl and is packed with way more flavor than a styrofoam cup could ever hold. And like so many other times, Evanston has just the place to satisfy the craving with Table to Stix Ramen.
If you're a Northwestern student, there’s good chance that you’ve never walked past this place before. Table to Stix Ramen, across from Bennison's bakery, is located on the the outskirts of what you would call the center of downtown Evanston.
It's not a huge restaurant and is tucked away behind a tree and a parking meter, but it's not hard to miss with its huge see-through storefront that exposes the entire restaurant to the outside world. That being said, there’s not much waiting room, which doesn’t seem like a big deal but does get uncomfortable when you don’t want to wait outside in the cold and a ton of people seem to be craving the same thing.
The tables are arranged in a bar-type seating where sitting in a group of five means that you will be doing a fair bit of elbow and knee bumping. Nevertheless, the space breathes urban chic with artsy Edison lightbulbs, wooden tables and three-dimensional walls.
It was a Friday night when my friends and I embarked on our pursuit of ramen. We had to wait about twenty minutes, but we eventually got seated with our stomachs growling.
Considering their specialty is Japanese ramen, the menu is short and sweet offering twelve small plates and four different types of ramen. They're all reasonably priced relative to the portions of the food.
While everything else sounded delicious, we started with the pork belly buns as an appetizer. It came out looking like two white pillows on a ceramic plate with greens and thick slices of juicy pork belly sandwiched in between. A thickened dark sauce gave a flavorful punch and left us scraping the plate for more.
Personally, I could have eaten ten more of those, but our ramen came out to fill the rest of our hungry stomachs. We ordered three of the four types of ramen on the menu and each ramen came out colorfully topped with its designated combinations of toppings, which we didn’t mess with. However, you can personalize yours by adding or substituting various toppings with an additional dollar or two.
The Tonkotsu ramen came out with slices of soy-braised pork belly, bean sprouts, sweet corn, an ajitama egg (a marinated egg with a slightly undercooked yolk), fish cake and scallions. Though my bowl could have used a little more of it, the broth wasn't too heavy and had just the right amount of richness. The noodles had a perfect bite to them and the pork was cooked just enough to melt in your mouth.
The Spicy Miso came out with ground beef and soy-braised pork with brussels sprouts, sweet corn, egg and scallions. This ramen is a must-try for those who like things kicked up a notch. It adds a little spice that balances out the miso, giving you a little surprise.
Last but not least, their Miso Veggie ramen came out filled high with fried tofu, korokke, a Japanese-style croquette, mushrooms, bean sprouts, sweet corn and a sprinkle of scallions. This ramen kept things a little lighter with the broth, but still held the depth of flavor. There was just enough breading on the tofu to achieve that satisfying crunch while keeping its integrity. However, the real star of the bowl were the seasoned, roasted brussels sprouts.
Though we had to wait for a while, we left with our with stomachs happy and full with good food and with intentions of returning when the cravings surface once again.
While it's tempting to put on your sweats and heat up a cup ramen in a matter of minutes, there are times when you should choose quality over convenience. In this case, the extra walk over to Table to Stix for a cozy bowl of Japanese ramen is worth every step.