Nick's Picks: Brooklyn Ramen
"Giddy up!" yells Michael Goode, owner of Brooklyn Ramen, as a dozen orders pour into his kitchen. After opening on November 20, this ramen restaurant at 215 Alexander Street already attracts a line out the door during lunch hours.
Goode is the undeniable center of attention during the lunch rush. Part ramen-maker, part host, and part stand-up comedian, he banters throughout the rush with his staff, customers, and his mother and sous chef, Etsuko.
After slinging out no less than fifteen ramen orders in about twenty minutes, Goode yells “I’m ready!” to his cashier, letting her know that the orders can come flooding in again. And they do. In the hour I spent at Brooklyn Ramen, the line never seemed to wane but neither did Goode’s energy.
Goode, 38, was raised in Pittsford and had only a marginal interest in cooking growing up.
“Michael and his father liked to cook on the weekends, but until now, he didn’t really have any cooking experience.” says Etsuko.
Instead, Goode’s previous career path was in public safety at Monroe Community College.
That all changed recently after Etsuko, a master of Japanese cuisine in her own right, stumbled upon a Brooklyn Ramen pop-up at an international grocery store in New York City. Etsuko was so impressed by the quality of the ramen that she made her son take the trip down to New York City to try it out for himself. Fast-friends with the owners of Brooklyn Ramen, who also consult for other ramen restaurants, Goode decided to make his peripheral interest in cooking into a full blown career.
For six months, Goode immersed himself into the art of ramen-making by spending four days a week in New York City training in 12-hour shifts with Brooklyn Ramen, then driving back to Rochester for the other three days of the week. He repeated this process over and over again.
“It was a lot of fun but it was quite the juggling act,” says Goode. “On off days I would just try to spend as much time as possible with my family.”
Following his rigorous training, Goode decided to pair his newly-acquired ramen expertise with his mother’s knowledge of classic Japanese cooking to create Rochester’s very own Brooklyn Ramen. The menu is split up Michael’s ramen and Etsuko’s traditional Japanese dishes.
Goode serves up Tonkotsu ramen with straight noodles, pork, and scallions; Spicy Miso Tonkotsu with miso paste, wavy noodles, sweet corn, and Ichimi Spice; Shoyu ramen with straight noodles, seaweed, and fried onions; as well as a vegetarian ramen option.
Etsuko’s specialties are beef curry over rice, Japanese pork-fried dumplings, and Ajitsuke, a Japanese soft-boiled egg infused with a soy-sake marinade.
After a very busy first two weeks with limited help, Goode expanded his staff and enlisted the help of his two of his sons who now work on weekends.
“We feel like we’re building up a nice clientele based around authentic Japanese food,” says Goode. “We’re not trying to become rich and famous, but we want to build a successful restaurant where people can enjoy hot ramen.”
While spending any amount of time in Brooklyn Ramen, it’s clear that the delicious food isn’t the only thing attracting repeat customers. Goode’s never-ending charisma paired with the family atmosphere inside create an environment that is both electric and comforting.
“There’s a lot of genuine hard work and passion in my food, as well as with how I treat people,” says Goode. “I treat people how I wanted to be treated, I want to put a smile on their face and make sure they have a great experience.”
Treating people the right way isn’t just a mantra for Goode, it’s practiced with every single person who walks into his shop.
On the blustery, freezing morning of my interview with Goode, a customer walked in at 10:45 a.m. Expecting a polite, but stern explanation that they were currently closed until 11 a.m., I turned to Goode for his reaction.
“Hey, we’re not open for another fifteen minutes, but why don’t you come inside and get out of the cold, we’ll be right with you.” he says.
Brooklyn Ramen is located at 215 Alexander Street and is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Follow Nick’s Picks on Twitter at @NicksPicks585