The first time Ken Ken Ramen appeared at Panchita's 3
back in late July, it drew 50 or so customers. The second time, 150. By its fourth Monday night appearance, the line stretched down 22nd Street from Capp to Mission. The pop-up restaurant, run by Robert Patterson, Stephan Roesch, and Kenji Miyazake, seemed like it was on a roll (in July, Eater SF ran a blog post about the partners' respective backgrounds
). In fact, Miyazake quit his job as a Bushi-Tei cook to focus on the ramen business. Then their model hit a snag: the pop-up's host.
"When we first approached Panchita's," Patterson says, "the owner said, No problem, I'm closed on Mondays. Why not take over the restaurant and pay this nominal fee? The first time, he made money and we made money. By the third time, he raised the rent, claiming we used $1,000 worth of gas." By the fourth Monday, Patterson says, the rent worked out to be $7 per bowl of noodles he sold; in addition, the owner forced Ken Ken to use untrained waiters he supplied. So the three partners suspended the pop-up and started approaching other Mission restaurateurs. Then things got stranger.
Now Patterson claims that Panchita's 3 is trying to do ramen without them [SFoodie has made repeated calls to Panchita's, but has not been able to speak to anyone there; we will update this post as soon as we do]. "On Sunday the owner started making some type of broth, and they were trying to sell ramen in our name," Patterson says. "Our
Twitter community is very supportive, and one of our
followers reported that he went there and [Panchita's 3 staff] pretended that they
were doing the ramen on Sunday now to ease the crowds. He tried it and said it was awful."
Patterson is talking to a couple Mission restaurateurs about hosting Ken Ken. He's trying to find a restaurant big enough to handle the crowds and provide up to eight burners for all the pots Miyazake keeps on the simmer. The partners will release updates about the status ― and new location ― of Ken Ken Ramen via Twitter: @kenkenramen.