Many restaurants in the Bay Area are slimming down their staffs, and opting for a fast-casual scene over the more labor-intensive full-service model. But sometimes fast-casual just doesn’t fit in with a restaurateur’s vision, which is why Itani Ramen is changing course to seated dinner service.
Since it opened last spring, the menu of ramen has been available to order at the counter only; runners brought out dishes, and took orders for more drinks and food via iPad, as needed. After a year, chef-owner Kyle Itani felt it was time to revisit his vision for the restaurant, which switches to a full-service dinner model tomorrow, August 23.
“I asked myself, ‘Would I bring a date here?” said Itani. “Our set-up for ramen is so efficient that you’re in and out too fast. I want people to feel like they can hang out, have a good time.” Though that efficiency — 100 bowls of ramen per hour, according to Itani — will remain at lunch, dinnertime will feature an expanded menu of izakaya items like miso black cod grilled on a magnolia leaf, alongside Itani’s popular gyoza, crispy pig ears, and other small plates. There’s also a liquor license in the works, which means cocktails in addition to the restaurant’s list of sake, shochu, and beer — a boon for those looking for a pre-show drink before heading to the Fox Theater across the street.
The interior has gotten a little refresh too, with the addition of slatted wooden screens across the windows. Itani has also blocked off the back of the restaurant, turning it into a lounge-y back room for overflow seating, private events, and possibly late-night cocktails.
Itani Ramen is open daily with lunch from 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and dinner from 5:00 p.m. - late-night; take-out is available through Caviar.