A bowl of ramen in Japan is akin to a hamburger in America—quick comfort food loved by just about everyone. But because there are so many regional variations and styles of ramen in Japan, there is no such thing as a singular, “authentic” bowl of ramen. There are dozens. The soup base, noodles and ingredients all vary depending on where you are.
“There is no such thing as a singular, “authentic” bowl of ramen. There are dozens.”
That’s the inspiration behind Sebastopol’s beloved Ramen Gaijin. “Gaijin” means foreigner, a less than complimentary term for non-Japanese. But Matthew Williams and Moishe Hahn-Schuman, the chefs/founders behind Ramen Gaijin, have taken the term as a source of pride. They are clearly not Japanese and draw on Sonoma County ingredients to make their signature shoyu (soy sauce-based) ramen using locally raised chicken for the broth, homegrown, pasture-raised pork, vegetables from area farms and squiggly, house-made, toasted rye flour noodles to create a wonderfully satisfying bowl of ramen. It’s rooted in Japanese techniques but just like the best Japanese ramen, reflects the seasonality and flavors of its home turf. They proudly list the local farms and purveyors that supply their always busy restaurant.
“Like the best Japanese ramen, [the food] reflects the seasonality and flavors of its home turf”
"We're trying to offer an authentically Sonoma County bowl of ramen," said Williams. Mission accomplished.
Williams and Hahn-Schuman met as cooks at a Woodfour Brewing Co; a local brewpub, and both had a passion for ramen, something that wasn’t served on the restaurant’s menu. After hours of testing and tinkering with ramen at home, they launched a once-a-month ramen pop-up at the restaurant, (which now has a great in-house taqueria and excellent brews, by the way). Ramen Gaijin was born and became an instant hit, serving 150 bowls of ramen or more a night out of a tiny kitchen. It was such a hit that after a few months the duo was looking for a permanent location to meet the demand and they found a space around the corner in the heart of Sebastopol.
“Day or night, Ramen Gaijin is easily the most popular spot in town.”
Day or night, Ramen Gaijin is easily the most popular spot in town. They’ve expanded their menu with more styles of ramen, a great izakaya menu (Japanese tapas) and an outstanding cocktail menu that draws on Japan and just about everywhere else. The result is an authentically Sonoma County experience you won’t find anywhere else.