Editor’s note: Smorgasburg’s outdoor venues are currently closed for the season, but they are currently accepting applications for the upcoming season. See yourself in their market lineup? Apply while you can.
New York definitely has a thing for hybrid foods — Cronuts, mochi waffles and, yes, the ramen burger. The Japanese-American mash-up (where ramen noodles make up the burger patties) started out as a quick pop-up at Smorgasburg, but now it — and the accompanying line — is a permanent fixture at the Brooklyn food market.
Despite a new storefront, Ramen Co., in FiDi, and another outpost at Berg’n, the Ramen burger stand at Smorgasburg still draws lines every Saturday and Sunday. So weekend mornings are hardly cartoons-and-coffee days; you’ll find founder Keizo Shimamoto at Ramen Co. working on the soups for the upcoming week, as his team packs up food to dish out to hungry festivalgoers (some 800 to 1,000 a day).
We stopped by one Sunday morning to watch the burgers move from FiDi to Brooklyn.
The boxes of ramen buns waiting to be transported. Keizo Shimamoto has Sun Noodle in New Jersey to produce his ramen noodles, and then turns them into ramen buns in his kitchen.
Some 27 cases of meat have to make it over to Brooklyn. Keizo gets started on packing the patties into coolers.
Half of the meat goes into one (extremely heavy) cooler.
Other ingredients necessary for the burgers: leafy greens, the special burger sauce and scallions. Each container is double-wrapped in plastic. Extra ramen buns are stuffed into a smaller cooler with the rest of the ingredients.
Shimamoto checks in on his stock. On the left, two pots of tare. On the right, the pork stock for the upcoming week.
All the ramen burger necessities are ready to go.
Ramen Co.’s general manager Todd Younggren arrives with a rented moving van to transport everything to Brooklyn. “It’s like a move, except twice a day,” Younggren says. “It’s ridiculous. It got me to hire a bunch of strong guys.”
We cross the Manhattan Bridge on our way to Smorgasburg. Sometimes, if the team runs out of ingredients, Younggren has to run back to the kitchen. He crosses this bridge at least four times a day.
9:43–10:25 a.m. (early)
Younggren unloads the van; the rest of the team arrives to set up the tent.
Ainsley Allen sets up the grills on a tarp, as grill master Karl Palma fires them up.
The sign goes up.
As hungry fans line up outside the Smorgasburg gates, Tammy Liu unwraps each individually wrapped ramen bun. The assembly line is set up.
11:04 a.m. Gates open. “Drop them!” Younggren orders, as Palma gets 40 patties on the grill in less than a minute.
Patties come off the grill.
The first burgers are assembled.
Less than 10 minutes after the gates open, the first ramen burger is served.