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Gaijin‘s classic tonkotsu ramen with pork belly

Opening Alert: Gaijin

Chef Bill Espiricueta’s ramen-and-yakitori spot moves into the No Vacancy stall at Zeppelin Station.

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Poke bowls? Check. Japanese cold brew coffee? Check. Montreal-style bagels? Check. If two-month-old Zeppelin Station has been missing anything on its roster of street food concepts, it would be ramen. Until yesterday, that is, when Chef Bill Espiricueta opened Gaijin, a ramen-and-yakitori joint, at the rotating No Vacancy stall. (No Vacancy formerly housed Comal Heritage Food Incubator.)

Espiricueta is also behind Zeppelin Station’s Injoi Korean BBQ and the forthcoming Smök BBQ at the Source Hotel, which is slated to open in July. If you’ve eaten at Injoi, you’re familiar with his unique twists on Korean fare. Rest assured, Espiricueta takes a similar approach with the stellar yakitori at Gaijin.

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The barbecue whiz, who grew up in Austin and lived in Kansas City, imported charcoal grills straight from Japan for cooking his yakitori skewers. But instead of using traditional oak binchotan charcoal, Espiricueta has chosen to cook over hardwood mesquite for a smokier flavor. The 500-degree coals give everything from chunks of rare wagyu beef and juicy shrimp to shishito peppers and a beautifully seasoned sausage-shaped chicken meatball a brilliant smoky char. Espiricueta finishes the skewers with either a simple sprinkle of salt or a brushing of tare (a mix of tamari, ginger, and mirin). Pro tip: Ask for half orders of each skewer so you can try more of the delicious options.

The concise menu also features three hearty ramen options: a togarashi-butter-spiked miso version with ground chicken; a classic tonkotsu with braised pork belly; and a vegetable mushroom iteration with tofu. Keep your eye out for weekly specials as well, and be sure to make your way over to Gaijin soon—it’ll only stick around for two to three months before being replaced by the next No Vacancy vendor.

Bonus: Zeppelin Station launched online ordering and delivery service via Confluence Courier Collective this week, which means you can get anything from Espiricueta’s ramen to Namkeen’s methi curry to pints of Gelato Boy’s delicious treats brought straight to your door.

Zeppelin Station, 3501 Wazee St., 720-460-1978

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