DO YOU TAKE RESERVATIONS?
No. Walk-ups only and small groups preferred. We are a small shop, seating patrons at every seat, and making wait times shorter in the long run. Sometimes that means a table for two is available before a table for three, even though both parties came in the door at the same time.
HOW LONG IS YOUR WAIT RIGHT NOW?
Find out the easy way by downloading the NoWait App! Use it to put your name on the wait list, then hang out at a neighboring bar or take a walk around the Gulch. No Wait will text you when your table is ready.
HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM THE STUFF I ATE IN COLLEGE?
We make traditional ramen using regional ingredients. We start with bone broth; simply water and bones that we slowly cook it until every ounce of goodness has melted into the broth, giving it a rich, viscous, hearty flavor and texture. Our noodles are custom made by a third generation family-owned company that have been our partners since day one (they actually shipped Otaku South 100 free noodles for her very first pop-up). Each style of broth is paired with a special shape of noodle that is designed to taste perfect with it (the same way you’d want to serve linguine, not orzo, with a cream sauce). Ramen noodles are wheat based and made with “kansui” (think baking powder) which makes them alkaline and gives them the strength to hold up in the rich broth.
WHY DO I NEED TO SLURP AND EAT QUICKLY?
It may takes days to make your bowl, but it should only take minutes to eat it. Our kitchen staff works hard to ensure your bowl reaches the table when the ramen is at its peak. The broth should be piping hot and the noodles should be a little bit al dente because they keep cooking as you eat. You have about a ten minute window to slurp down your ramen while this balance of flavor, temperature and texture exists. Slurping is efficient, a compliment to the chef, and coats your lips in the rich broth in such a wonderful way. We suggest you taste your broth first- if you need more seasoning, just ask!
CAN I TAKE MY RAMEN HOME?
Once served a bowl of ramen, it has a limited lifespan, so we advise against it, but if you don’t finish your ramen, you’re welcome to take it home. But be warned: ramen doesn’t travel well. Bone broth will congeal in the fridge and even though the noodles are alkaline, they will become soggy over time.
CHEF & FOUNDER SARAH GAVIGAN
In the summer of 2012, Sarah Gavigan returned to her native Tennessee after almost 20 years in Los Angeles and found that Nashville was a ramenless.
Gavigan lasted two ramen-less years before she decided to dedicate herself to learning the craft of making traditional ramen. While helping chef Tyler Brown (formerly of Capital Grill) in the Glen Leven Garden one day, she discovered that the Japanese aromatic Shiso, grew wild in Middle Tennessee.
Surprised, she dug deeper and found that Nashville sits on almost the exact same latitude as Tokyo. Many of the same vegetables and flavors were similar. Middle Tennessee is renowned for it's prized country ham, and heritage pigs meant there were hundreds of local farms able to provide bones, which are necessary to make succulent TN Tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen broth. It all made perfect sense.
After testing recipes with friends, she started doing pop-ups all over town with great success. Finally, in 2014 Gavigan and her husband Brad opened POP Nashville, which housed Otaku South until May 2015. This long journey eventually lead them to what is now Otaku Ramen.
IN THE NEWS
Native Magazine, "There and Back Again"
"Though she scoured Los Angeles for new and interesting tastes, there was one place she kept coming back to. “I would just go to the Japanese grocery store and sit by myself and eat a bowl of ramen..."
Nashville Scene, "Otaku Ramen"
"The best seats are at the bar, looking into the kitchen—where you can watch the sometimes awkward, sometimes graceful dance the staff puts on while they maneuver in and out of tight spaces, dropping baskets of noodles into boiling water and seasoning each bowl with a balance of other ingredients, like poached eggs, long strands of pork, and rectangular sheets of nori seaweed." [read more]
Tennessean, "Sit, Slurp and Savor"
"The open kitchen, dining counters and rows of community tables all pulse with the steam and sizzle of the cooks at work, the lively banter of customers over their bowls. It’s close quarters in a good way, ramen-lovers all around. No reservations, but things move apace."
Tennessean, "A Nashville Noodle Primer"
“We make all of our broth from bones and simmer it for hours and hours until the everything inside the bones literally melts into the broth,” she says. “People are surprised and delighted by how rich a traditional Japanese broth is."
Food and Wine, "Nashville in 10 Plates"
"I like her pork ramen. A lot. She makes a super-porky, super-fatty tonkotsu broth, then she adds shoulder meat, a poached egg and cooked greens."
Eater, "Otaku South's Sarah Gavigan on Ramen, Life of a Pop-Up"
"The real heritage of ramen is slow food. What we have to our advantage that so many other ramen spots do not is access to local farms, which supply fresh bone and protein for our dishes. This is very important to me."