By Blake Brady

Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge Crossing is responsible for nearly 25% of the trade between Canada and The United States. Fort Street, also known as M-85, takes one on a journey directly under the bridge, alongside truck stops, mechanics, factories, and warehouses. Sitting on M-85, in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge, we find Johnny Noodle King. The location was once home to Johnny Ham King, a restaurant once known for thick cut, juicy, and salty ham on sandwiches and breakfast plates.

Johnny Noodle King is Detroit’s only Ramen House. It’s red brick structure and metal booths are a reminder of the cities industrial landscape. But, there is also a hipster element about this place. Employees wear T-Shirts (Black for chefs, Red for wait staff), hip music, and a T.V. that runs a slideshow with a Johnny Noodle Bowl in front of historic Detroit landmarks. Taken together, these subtle hints would seem to indicate that Johnny’s is not an authentic ramen house, nor is it trying to be. But, it is Japanese inspired.

Traditional ramen is a Japanese or Chinese soup bowl that consists of a meat or fish based broth, noodles made of wheat flour, and various toppings not limited to pork, seaweed, boiled egg, bamboo shoots, and scallions. Not the ramen we’ve all survived on from time to time in those little Styrofoam cups.

Just like its predecessor, Johnny Noodle King’s menu is fairly priced and offers mostly pork dishes, though the menu also includes, seafood, chicken and grilled beef ramen. Some of the items are uniquely influenced by different cultures. For example, the Southwest #2, a ramen bowl served with your choice of pork belly or shredded pork shoulder, green chili, cilantro, hominy, scallions, and coriander roasted carrots. And, while the menu is small the 23 various ADD-ONS, which can be incorporated into your bowl at $1 each, quickly expands the possibilities.

Shoyu with Pork Belly

Shoyu with Pork Belly

Our server recommended SHOYU with pork belly stating, “It’s the bowl we are known for.” My Shoyu bowl was beautifully topped with nori, menma, scallions, a poached egg, naruto, and bonito ($11). The pork belly was sliced thick, very tender, and slightly salty. The broth had plenty of flavor, supporting all of the toppings quite nicely. Noodles were thin and crinkly (if that’s a word).

One of the more tempting sides at Johnny’s is Bacon Fired Rice ($6), with Edwards Bacon, egg, Ume, scallions, corn, dehydrated pork, and cucumber. And, then there is Tableside Torched Mackerel ($11), Oh foh foh foh, which, though we did not sample, certainly caught our attention.

Craft cocktails, Sake, and Japanese beer selections are available; with a specialty craft Two James “Johnny Smoking Gun” whiskey made exclusively for the joint, served neat or with a Shoyu broth back. But, something else spiked my curiosity – Fermented Botanical Beverages! Never have I had such a thing, but a fermented floral pop deserves a try. Ironically, it was called Curiosity Cola and came served in the bottle, alongside a tall glass of ice. With its ginger and herbal extracts, the drink did well in complimenting a flavor packed meal, while also clearing the palate for each chop-stick swirl of ramen.

J King is a creative culinary experience that most certainly should be had.

Open Mon to Wed 11am-10pm, Thurs-Sat 11am-midnight, and noon-10pm on Sunday.

Tell Johnny The Met sent you!

2601 West Fort Street Detroit, MI 48216