CHINATOWN — The neighborhood is packed with acclaimed restaurants, from the Tony Hu empire to lesser-known, low-key joints, but there's almost nowhere to eat outside.
Strings Ramen Shop has changed that, ushering in a new era of Chinatown dining where patrons can slurp noodles and sip cocktails al fresco.
The Japanese-style restaurant, known for its killer bowls of ramen noodles — the restaurant says it has served more than 30,000 bowls since opening in February — has debuted a new 20-seat side patio to lure diners to Chinatown.
"It's summer and I understand that people don't like to eat hot broth in the summer, but it's really nice when the sun goes down and we have a breeze," said restaurant manager Katie Dong. "And besides ramen, we have a new item, yakisoba, a Japanese stir-fried noodle dish."
Casey Cora details the outdoor cafe and how rare it is in the neighborhood:
To cool things down, the restaurant at 2141 S. Archer Ave. is also serving up new drinks called "Stringrias," made with fresh fruit and herbs. They come in two varieties: tamarind citrus with sweet Italian basil and tograshi pepper, plus a Japanese yuzu, melon, strawberry, lime and thyme concoction.
Full pitchers cost $11.95; half pitchers are $7.95.
Dong said the drinks are good on their own or can be used a mixers for BYOB patrons. They're a good base for wines and clear liquors, Dong said.
And speaking of pairing, the restaurant's team says the pitchers go well with the rich broths of the ramen dishes.
The melon drink, for example, is a good companion to the miso ramen, "a heavy broth that's rich and creamy and has a more salty flavor, so the melon yuzu and the citrus acid goes perfect with it," she said.
"And it all goes great in the patio. It's nice and cool," she said.
Strings Ramen Shop, located at 2141 S. Archer Ave. in Chinatown, is open 11 a.m.-midnight Sun-Thurs and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The new patio can be booked for private parties. For more information, call 312-374-3450.