It was a frigid Thursday afternoon when I stepped into Table to Stix on Davis Street craving a bowl of ramen. After braving the Chicago winter and a long day of classes, all I needed was something warm and rich.

Table to Stix has remained an invaluable staple for both the Northwestern and greater Evanston community since opening seven years ago. Between the impeccable customer service and the soul-nurturing food, it is no surprise why. The small storefront space is full of charm and the minimalist design and floor to ceiling glass windows create a cozy yet modern atmosphere that draws all hungry customers inside.

Caroline Labow

Head chef Ken Chou said his mission is to bring the experience and flavors of Japan to Evanston locals.

An Illinois native, Chou grew up surrounded by culinary influences in a family full of chefs and restaurateurs. Despite working a 9 to 5 desk job after graduating college, Chou said the call of the kitchen was too strong to ignore. He took a position working under his uncle as a sushi chef — an opportunity Chou said all of his culinary training can be traced back to. 

“It is the best way to learn,” said Chou. “Being in the kitchen will teach you everything.”

Inspired by historic Japanese cuisine and his previous experience with Asian cooking, Chou created Table to Stix with authentic preparation methods in mind.

The early Table to Stix menu featured only four basic ramen bowls and a few appetizers. Today, their offerings have more than doubled in size with eight bowls to choose from and many more mouth watering appetizers. Chou emphasized the importance of starting small given the unpredictability of the restaurant industry.

Caroline Labow

Table to Stix’s popularity is undeniable; a day after their opening, the restaurant was forced to close early after selling out of ingredients before 7 pm the night before. Chou attributes their success to a combination of luck, hard work and consistency.

My own late lunch started off strong with calamari. I was surprised to find that the thick, deep fried exterior did not detract from the flavor profile of the squid as is so often the case with the classic appetizer. The side of spicy aioli made for the perfect dipping sauce, necessary for those who enjoy some extra heat. Spicy and crunchy, the calamari complemented the ramen I would soon receive. 

Caroline Labow

As hungry as I was, I was hesitant to dig into my ramen when it was first served. As everyone in the food industry knows, presentation is important. When the Classic Tonkatsu bowl was placed in front of me, its ingredients were arranged like a mini piece of edible art.

Caroline Labow

Starting first with the broth, the richness and creaminess created an aura of ultimate comfort food. The smooth and soft noodles held the broth well, never falling apart even when fully submerged. The pork soon emerged as a star ingredient, its fattiness, seasoning and richness only amplifying the surrounding broth. The corn and scallions served as a necessary balance of fresh vegetables and added a new texture to every spoonful.

Needless to say, I left feeling full for hours. If you haven’t been already, be sure to stop by Table to Stix for a meal that delivers high quality flavor with immense comfort. Located near campus with a delectable selection of bowls, Table to Stix is sure to satisfy all your ramen cravings.