Jinya Mug

Jinya Ramen Bar, set to open winter of 2020, sits in downtown Athens, Georgia. January 12, 2020. (Photo/Ryan Cameron rcameron@randb.com)

Tomonori Takahashi spent much of his childhood in Japan watching the faces of the customers at his father’s restaurant to see what made them happy. Now, as the owner and CEO of JINYA Ramen Bar, Takahashi hopes his customers have the same looks of joy and happiness.

Serving up steaming bowls of fresh ramen and other Japanese favorites, JINYA Ramen Bar, a national chain with locations from California to Georgia, will be Broad Street’s newest addition. The restaurant will take over the vacancy Burger IM left on 351 E. Broad St., with a target opening date of the end of February, Takahashi said through a translator.

Takahashi opened the restaurant’s first location in Tokyo in 2000 before immigrating to the U.S. in 2010. He wanted to bring both the flavors and culture of his country to those in America who weren’t exposed to them and opened his first U.S. location in California that year.

Since then, the restaurant has expanded to over 30 locations across the U.S. and Canada. In Georgia alone, locations in Sandy Springs, Buckhead and Alpharetta currently exist with plans to open restaurants in Athens and Buford by the end of 2020, according to a press release.

Mallory Mifflin, a junior cognitive science major from Kennesaw, Georgia, said she visited the Sandy Springs location three or four times a couple weeks ago after a friend recommended the restaurant and is looking forward to the one in Athens.

The restaurant offers both traditional types of ramen — including tonkotsu, chicken- and vegetable-based bowls — and the ability to customize options with a wide-array of add-ins like bamboo shoots, tofu and bok choy, something Mifflin appreciates about the restaurant. Her perfect combination: the spicy tonkotsu ramen with a seasoned egg.

“It’s so good, I’d get it today if I could,” Mifflin said.

Takahashi said the popularity of ramen and Japanese cuisine in the U.S. has coincided with healthy eating trends over the past decade.

While Takahashi hopes everyone enjoys the food, he said the restaurant’s target clientele is college-age students which was one of the major reasons he decided to open a location in Athens.

Mifflin said she thinks the Athens location will be successful due to its existing popularity in Sandy Springs—every time she went there was a wait— and the fact that there aren’t many restaurants in Athens which currently offer the dish.

Prices for the bowls of ramen are upwards of $10, according to the menus of other Georgia locations, however Takahashi said the cost is worth it because JINYA uses the “best” ingredients along with a combination of skill and time.

“It takes more than 10 hours to make the soup ... we can just make within one hour, that’s possible, but we don't want to cheat,” Takahashi said. “Cost, time, skill … we just want to commit to the best.”

Overall, Takahashi hopes his restaurant’s food will serve a higher purpose.

“The ultimate goal is to introduce our authentic, delicious ramen to the people in America … and hopefully they [get] started interested in the culture of Japan,” Takahashi said. “If we can be a bridge between America and Japan, that'll be our goal.”

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