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It’s possible that metro Denver has reached peak ramen: Ramen Star, Asuka Ramen & Poke, and yet another location of Menya Ramen & Poke have all opened around town in recent months, joining an already lengthy list of noodley offerings. But Boulder? Boulder’s got room for more broth, and Gaku Ramen’s is slurp-worthy.
While living in Japan post-graduation, friends Ryan Goldstein and Michael March found themselves lamenting the lack of access to quality ramen when they were in school. So, they set out to upgrade students’ ramen experiences, with a plan to open ramen houses in college towns across the country. Along with Goldstein’s college friend, David Stone, also a co-founder, the trio started in Burlington, Vermont, in 2016. Their second outpost opened in Boulder in late April.
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To match the flavors they devoured in Japan, the team enlisted the help of ramen masters Kazuki Nakazawa and Toshinori Shimada, who apprenticed for years before opening their own ramen shops in that country. The result: Gaku serves three of the most traditional types of ramen (shoyu, miso, and tonkotsu), as well as a selection of steamed buns, kara age (Japanese-style fried chicken), and rice bowls.
Our suggestion: Kick off your meal with the pork buns (two to an order), in which pickled vegetables brighten the spicy sambal mayo and rich meat tucked inside. You’re probably visiting Gaku for the ramen, though, and the tonkotsu, with its buttery, porky broth and gobs of noodles, bamboo shoots, and kikurage mushrooms, is the way to go. Opt for the black garlic and poached egg add-ons for a smokier, creamier bowl.
The two-level restaurant and bar is one of the only full-service, sit-down offerings on the Hill, which gives Gaku a more grown-up feel than its grab-and-go neighbors. (Don’t miss the unique ramen painting on the second floor by University of Colorado Boulder sophomore Mary Mueffelmann.) The full bar—including a sake list and a dozen or so wines—further supports Gaku’s more mature vibe. Of course, there’s the requisite selection of draft, canned, and bottled beers, too. It is a college town, after all.
If You Go: Gaku Ramen is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. until late on Friday and Saturday.
1119 13th St., Boulder, 303-736-2879