Amid the wide range of Asian-themed restaurants near campus, another is set to open in Southeast Como.
Ramen Kazama, a Japanese soup shop, will open near the corner of 15th Ave SE and Como Ave SE by early December. The restaurant will likely face competition among the many Asian-style restaurants around the University of Minnesota.
The restaurant is filling the recently shuttered Obento-Ya.
Ramen Kazama will offer authentic Japanese ramen ranging from $9.50 to $14.
“We are really friendly to students,” said Ramen Kazama owner Josh Floring. “The price point for a bowl of ramen is going to be very [affordable].”
The restaurant will serve five different types of ramen dishes, rice dishes and appetizers.
Some of the dishes are gluten-free, and there are also vegetarian and vegan options.
Cody Olson, executive director of the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said the Southeast Como neighborhood is excited about the restaurant because of its similarity to Obento-Ya.
“We [were] a little surprised when we saw that Obento-Ya was leaving,” Olson said. “Earlier we heard some rumors that things were not going super well… so the general consensus that we heard from neighbors is excited about [Kazama]… because it’s not too far of a departure.”
Ramen Kazama isn't the first ramen restaurant in the University community and might face some competition due to an increase in Asian-based restaurants in the area.
Ichiddo Ramen & BBQ, an authentic Japanese restaurant, is expected to open in November at the former location of Baldy’s BBQ in Dinkytown.
Business owners said they feel the competition with their Asian-cuisine neighbors.
Despite the increased competition in the area, each business still has its own distinct menu and offerings, Ichiddo Owner Tony Yang said through a translator.
Spencer Ung, a manager at the U Garden Restaurant, said the Chinese cuisine restaurant is also facing competition due to the influx of Asian-based eateries.
“We do face competition… we are concerned about that,” Ung said. “We offer something different than other restaurants.”
As more Asian restaurants have opened near campus, U Garden’s customers have decreased, he said.
“The more Asian restaurants out there, we do feel the tension,” Ung said.
But Floring said he’s not that concerned about competition in the area.
“We already have an established restaurant in Nicollet and we already have customers from over there asking us when the [new] location is going to open,” Floring said.
Plus, he said Ramen Kazama will have something that differentiates them from competitors: a patio.
Floring said the back patio will offer 50 seats for customers looking to relax outside.
Ramen Kazama will also stand on its own because of the quality of its cuisine, he said.
Floring said his business partner, Matthew Kazama, was raised in Japan and is an expert in the cuisine.
“He has that Japanese palate, [which] is pretty unique to identifying the flavor of Ramen,” Floring said. “That has been a key differentiator for us… when you eat that bowl of ramen from us, it really has that palate of that Japanese person and that’s really important.”