It's real, and we've seen it: Boke Bowl's much anticipated brick 'n' mortar location now exists, and a handful of us had the privilege of checking it out at last night's soft opening, where the ramen, the beer and wine, and the appetizers flowed free. The location, cozied up next to favorite watering hole Bunk Bar (you can pass back and forth between them through the shared inner hallway, sparing yourself the necessity of stepping out into the pissing rain in between taking the comforts of hot soup and alcohol) is painted a cheerful, kitchen-y orange, a blast of cheerfulness that's much needed on gray days, and charming order numbers slide into place in cute little gutters that run the length of the tables. They certainly know their niche, and their official opening this Friday could scarcely be better timed to dovetail with the onset of permanent ramen weather.


Those familiar with Boke's first incarnation as a pop-up restaurant will recognize the array of options that are artfully presented on the restaurant's wall on wooden slats, presenting choices of ramen, from vegan to pescetarian to carnivore, plus a selection of add-ons and extras. As someone who has annoying special dietary needs as well as an apparently inexhaustible craving for all varieties of Asian noodle soups, having options is pretty damn important—and yes, I know, "real ramen" will always have pork. But these are modern times. Lately places with veggie ramens have been cropping up—Mirakutei and Wafu both offer good ones—but nowhere else can I revel in the luxury of having two (two!) broth options (I went with the seafood, which miraculously doesn't contain pork or other meaty bits—that never happens).

This soup itself is delicious, on par with my other usual spots (although a couple of my meat eating friends declared that their loyalty to Biwa remains unseated) if not particularly outshining them, and I heard good things from those who sampled the selection of appetizers on hand. Ned called the pork buns "really tasty, sort of like an open-faced dumpling sandwich, but doughier," and of the "twinkies" he opined that they "were great, although I think they were more like ladyfinger cakes and didn't actually resemble Twinkies. That is a good thing."

My only complaint? The hours. Except for reservation-only Thursday nights specializing in Korean fried chicken, Boke is lunch-only, making it somewhat inaccessible to anyone who doesn't work in the immediate vicinity. Hopefully that is only temporary.