If you’ve been on the Internet at any point in the last few years, you’ve probably already heard of Keiko Shimamoto’s Ramen Burger. Every weekend, his stand opens at Smorgasburg to sell a single signature product: you guessed it, the ramen burger—a beef patty, arugula, scallions, and a whole lot of sauce, all between two ramen buns. And although they’re gimmicky as hell and probably super overhyped, I’ve been curious about these monstrosities for a while now.
For some reason, I sort of just assumed I wouldn’t be able to eat at Ramen Burger—or at any Smorgasburg stand, for that matter. I tried making my own ramen burger (no small feat), but it turned out to be a pretty boring meal for the amount of effort it took. So I forgot all about noodle buns for a while—that is, until I got the idea to contact Ramen Burger with a few allergy-related questions. Within a few days, I received the following reply:
Our food is safe to eat for people with nut allergies. There are no tree nuts (or any other nut allergens) in the ramen burger. We do use sesame oil though. There is no cross contamination of tree nuts either.
Good news! I can’t quite categorize Ramen Burger as truly nut-free, as I can’t imagine they’re in a position to make any sort of guarantees, but they’re a workable alternative—for me, at least. So onto my list it went.
This past Saturday, Sam and I took the ferry to Williamsburg, where we met up with my dad and ventured into Smorgasburg in search of Ramen Burger’s stand. It didn’t take long for us to find it—the stand drew a huge crowd, as it tends to—but it did take long for us to make our way to the front of the line. 30 minutes and $10 (each!) later, though, we had our burgers—and that was all that mattered.
There’s no denying that the ramen burger is good. It’s greasy, but not overly so—and it’s absolutely packed with flavor. Sesame oil, soy, and some sort of super-sugary Sriracha-ketchup hybrid kind of dominate the whole thing, as the ramen bun itself it pretty bland, but the noodles do add a nice texture. Definitely more interesting than your average bread-based bun. The patty was thin and definitely overcooked, though—and I feel obligated to say so to anyone who’s considering making the trek to Smorgasburg and, you know, getting in line to pay $10 for a burger.
As we were eating, a group of men approached us and asked whether the burger was really worth the wait. They seemed to really not want to spend their Saturday afternoon waiting in line for a hyped-up GimmickBurger, if that was all it was going to be—and who could blame them? I was busy trying (and failing) to get a decent photo of the thing, so my dad—forever on the lookout for a chance to talk about food—answered immediately: “No.”
His explanation was fair: The ramen burger is good, but it’s not wait-a-half-hour-to-spend-$10 good. Still, it certainly is interesting—and perhaps worth a try, but not because it’s anything special, culinarily speaking. For better or worse, the ramen burger is iconic—and that’s why it’s worth finding out what it’s like for yourself. And for me, there’s that added bonus of being able to actually try one of those strange delicacies everyone’s always talking about. Overhyped or not, that process is pretty exciting.
And that was my favorite part, I think: the excitement that comes with being able to partake. As those with food allergies know, it can be really gratifying to finally be able get in on something food-related ritual that most others can get in on without a second thought. Ramen Burger offers the opportunity to partake—and that, to me, is worth the wait. (Oh, and there’s that whole bit about it tasting good, too.)
Anyway, if you, too, would like to partake—and if Ramen Burger’s incidental lack of nuts is enough to make you feel safe—you can do so at Smorgasburg, in Williamsburg (90 Kent Avenue) on Saturdays, and in Prospect Park (near the entrance on Lincoln Road) on Sundays. Bring cash, though—and maybe a snack or two.