Doom Noodle ramen

Doom‘s Days

At Three Sheets, the line started at the bar, went around the corner and ended at the side door, while in the kitchen Jordan Waters cracked eggs into bowls of ramen noodles, his eyes darting between orders clipped to the ticket reel, concentration at full blast, Molly Kennedy sticking each bowl with a square of seaweed for style, like a feather in a cap, sending it to eager patrons, sating for many an anticipation that’d been building all week.

It’s a familiar scene wherever pop-up restaurant Doom Noodle sets up temporary shop. “Every single service is crushing,” lead chef and co-founder Waters says. “We bought the largest ticket reel and it’s always full for the entire service.” The weekend before our interview was record-breaking for Doom Noodle: the House Ramen sold out in less than two and a half hours; the whole menu sold out in three and a half.

A ghost ship of sorts, the ominously named kitchen takeover appears only on select Sunday nights, and not always in the same place. Waters and Kennedy, the other co-founder, had their opening night at Firehouse 12 on September 27, where Doom settled in for several services.

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Now it’s at Three Sheets, for the time being. As the event travels, its fans follow, keeping an eye on the endeavor’s social media accounts to find out where to find it on a given Sunday, chosen because it’s often “the day off for cooks,” Waters says. Doom Noodle was originally going to be a pop-up “for cooks by cooks,” but the rest of New Haven—mostly a young crowd—have caught on. “We’ve been humbled and awed by the response,” Kennedy says. Diners are usually 21 to 30 years old (any events in bars are 21+), both town and gown. “It’s not just a hipster thing,” Waters stresses. “We want everyone who likes ramen to come. … Our main thing was not trying to make something pretentious.”

While pretense may be officially banished, taste is not. Doom Noodle’s ramen isn’t dorm room fare. The noodles themselves, sourced from the artisanal Hawaiian ramen-maker Sun Noodle, are thick, soft and full of kinks. At the center of my House Ramen ($12), the white dome of a slow-poached egg crested, its yolk running into the noodles and mixing with the pork and shellfish broth. Around the egg sat other toppings: scallions, a mound of sweet corn and a delectable piece of pork shoulder, or chashu, padded with soft cushions of buttery fat. Also in the bowl—for an extra $1—is another, more humble slice: a crispy, salty piece of Spam seared into a gentle “S.”

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Spam. The urban legends that surround it are myriad. In middle school I heard it was made of crickets. Other, darker accounts claim it became popular among certain cannibalistic tribes of the Pacific because its taste was so akin to human flesh. Its very name has jokingly been said to stand for “Stuff Posing As Meat”—though in reality it comes from an abbreviation of “spiced ham”—which is pretty much what it is. Made from ham and other cuts of pork, it’s also got salt, water, corn starch, sugar and sodium nitrate. The last of these is the most controversial of the bunch—the jury is still out as to its health effects—though it’s surely not as scandalous as cricket or, you know, human.

The decision to add the infamous canned meat to the menu as an optional topping came in part because Waters has family in Hawaii where Spam is nothing if not normal. First made during WWII to feed soldiers, Spam caught on with locals there, becoming a staple food item, particularly as Spam musubi—a sort of sushi. Along the way it earned yet another tongue-in-cheek, and perhaps its most flattering, nickname: “Hawaiian steak.”

Some might still find the meat product off-putting, but for wary souls Waters offers a word of assurance: “We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t tasty.”

Besides the House Ramen, there was also a vegetarian Miso Ramen ($10), with all the toppings of the House Ramen minus the pork shoulder and plus some gochujang, a spicy-sweet Korean pepper paste. The ramen on its own will likely fill you up, but in case a bowl isn’t enough, Doom Noodle offers a few other items. The night I attended, the Bao Sandwich Double ($7) served roasted pork shoulder with chili sauce on steamed Chinese buns. The Veggie Bao Double ($7) was similar but with soy-roasted shiitake in place of pork, while the Prawn Chips ($3), seasoned with Korean chilies, made for fun finger food.

Some customers have told them they’d like more vegetarian options, as well as vegan and gluten-free ones, and the self-funded, two-person company is working on it, but they can’t please everyone just yet. “We’d love to accommodate everyone but it’s baby steps, not leaps and bounds.” For both Kennedy and Waters, Doom is their first time running a business and they’re being careful not to bite off more than they can chew.

Doom Noodle
Select Sundays 6pm-11pm (or until sell-out)
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Written by Daniel Shkolnik. Photograph, by Molly Kennedy, provided courtesy of Doom Noodle.

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