At some point, every college student goes through the traumatic experience of checking their bank account and realizing that they have spent far too much money. On a budget, but still hungry, many students turn to one of college’s biggest food staples: ramen. Because it's cheap, delicious and easy to cook, ramen serves as one of the greatest college foods out there. 

However, as a food enthusiast, I cannot just dismiss ramen as just cheap college food. The Japanese noodle soup can be rich in bold and unique flavors, if prepared properly. Local Gainesville craft ramen restaurant, Crane Ramen, proves how ramen is so much more than a cheap college meal. 

The Ambience

Upon walking in, I felt like I was transported from the hot college world of Gainesville into a more modern and quaint environment, something similar to what one would experience in Los Angeles or Portland. The lights were dimmed softly, alternative music played quietly, small tables surrounded you, and each worker was dressed in a simple but chic manner. 

It was amazing to step inside a place and feel like I've traveled across the country. The logo on the glass doors, the vivid happy hour signs, the sleek menus, and the custom Crane Ramen cartoon placemats were only some of the many things that made the restaurant feel different than any other restaurant in the city. 

Tabatha Marks

The House-Made Sodas

As usual, ordering drinks was the first thing on my agenda. I noticed they had two house-made sodas: Ginger Lemon and Cherry-Yuzu. I ended up choosing the Ginger Lemon, which was incredibly well-balanced. Normally, the ginger flavor in ginger sodas are too overwhelming. But by adding lemon into the mix, it made the ginger flavor subtle, giving it a smooth and refreshing flavor.

Tabatha Marks

The Condiments

As a big fan of spice, I cannot eat ramen without some form of hot sauce. I was excited to see that you could order a side of house hot sauce. It's thicker than many other chili pastes, but it's also more flavorful. And thankfully, the spice is not overbearing at all. It has that essential heat with a pinch of sweetness to keep it cool and tolerable.

Not a fan of spice? Don't fret. Crane Ramen also offers many other condiments. For instance, I fell just as in love with the sesame chili oil, which is provided at every table. It also had some extra zest to it that made its flavor pop a lot more than any other oil I've had before. 

Tabatha Marks

The Appetizers 

(Or as they call it, 'Otsumami')

Crane Ramen offers a wide variety of appetizers for every type of eater out there. They have both vegetarian and meaty options. However, if you’re a dumpling fan like me, you get the choice between veggie gyoza and pork gyoza. I went with the latter option, and I've got to say: this is what dreams are made of. 

Perfectly panfried, the gyoza was full of intense flavor and had great texture with every bite. I added some of the house made hot sauce and house gyoza sauce into the mix. The flavor was incredible on its own, but pairing these two sauces with it brought out an insatiable taste that I still crave today. 

Tabatha Marks

The Ramen

I was offered eight different ramen bowls, but I decided to go with the Shio, which is composed of chicken, fish and clam broth. It's topped with snow crab, pork belly, a six-minute egg, nori, enoki, garlic oil and scallions. However, if that's still not enough, Crane Ramen offers ten different add-ons, such as pulled pork, seasonal fresh greens or extra noodles.

With so many ingredients, each bite had its own signature flavor. None of these fell any bit short of stunning in texture and taste. The snow crab was incredibly soft and fresh. The egg was cooked so well that I didn't even need to bite into the egg, as it melted into my mouth upon touching my lips. 

Tabatha Marks

I don't even know where to begin with the pork belly. The fat was so incredibly tender that with each bite, I'd taste the juiciness of both the pork and the broth. Finally, we cannot forget the noodles. Every slurp was full of not only the flavors of the rich broth, but also of all the ingredients. And adding the house made hot sauce and sesame chili oil caused these already intense flavors to pop so much more.  

The House-Made Ice Cream

My meal here left me incredibly full and happy. Yet, my waitress asked me eleven words of bliss, “Would you like to try our double-fudge house made ice cream?” Without a doubt, I said yes. I was expecting an intense and full flavor due to the tastes of everything else here. But somehow the ice cream was able to surpass these already insanely high expectations. 

The fudge flavor was apparent in this dish, which was reflected in the thick texture of the ice cream. The chocolate flavor never got too intense and was actually very refreshing after having such a hot meal. It left my palate feeling clean and my sweet tooth happy. 

Tabatha Marks

Eating at Crane Ramen was such a euphoric experience during every element of my meal. One trip here, and you will be at home cooking your Top Ramen with a new passion unlike you've ever had before. Ramen is truly much more than cheap college food. And thank you for showing me that, Crane Ramen.