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Lost in the broth: Santouka Ramen opens Allston restaurant

Santouka Ramen
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka located at 169 Brighton Avenue in Allston. The restaurant is scheduled to open Sept. 23. SHANNON RUSNAK/DFP STAFF

International restaurant chain Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is set to open its newest location in Allston on Sept. 23, expanding its empire to Boston University’s backyard.

The Japan-based ramen food chain has approximately 55 locations worldwide across 9 countries, with its newest location at 169 Brighton Avenue, just 5 blocks from the Star Market in West Campus and a five minute walk from Packard’s Corner.

The story of Santouka started in mid-November of 1987 with founder Hitoshi Hatanaka.

“One day I was watching a movie with ramen in it and that made me want to eat ramen,” Hatanaka said through an interpreter. “I tried to find some ramen in the city, but I could not find anything good so I got really upset. So I said to my son, ‘I’m going to make a better ramen.’”

Hatanaka said he rushed to open his first restaurant on March 10, 1988 mainly because of the name of his restaurant.

“The shop name was already decided, it was Santouka.” Hatanaka said. “San means three, tou means ten. Even if the shop was not ready, the shop must open on March 10.”

At first, Hatanaka struggled with the restaurant.

“Nobody came to the restaurant at the beginning, but I asked friends to come and have a beer and then it looked like the restaurant was popular,” Hatanaka said.

Hatanaka opened 13 restaurants throughout Japan and 40 restaurants internationally, including two more in Boston located in Harvard Square and Back Bay.

Boston Area Manager Tatsunori Tanaka said the Harvard Square location brought in the largest revenue out of all of the Santouka locations worldwide after its opening in 2015.

A celebration for the opening of the new Allston took place on Sept. 9. Hatanaka flew in from Japan to attend this event.

“It’s such a rare opportunity to get a founder, so let’s celebrate him today,” Chris Haynes, a restaurant publicist for Santouka, said.

Alesandra Pollina, a guest at the opening event and 2011 BU alumna, said she’s heard good things about the other Santouka Ramen restaurants in Boston.

“The other location too … I hear they always have lines out the door,” Pollina said. “I don’t know if that’s because they’re tiny, but that’s how good it is. People are always trying to come.”

Sam Wu, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he has many fond memories at a Santouka restaurant.

“The first time I went [to Santouka] was a date. My first date in college was actually at Santouka,” Wu said. “It felt like a good start to college.”

Wu said he has a yearly tradition of going with other members of the Chinese Student Association to Santouka.

“Other places might have other things besides just ramen but Santouka really is just all about ramen,” Wu said. “Every single ingredient they put into it has a lot of thought and it all works together.”


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