Memphis’s New Ramen Masters: Lucky Cat Ramen
Ed. Note: I’m excited (pumped, really) to share with you this post from Stacey Greenberg, Memphis food expert. Be on the lookout for more fresh faces and new voices on the I Love Memphis Blog in the coming weeks. – Holly
UPDATE! Summer 2017: Lucky Cat Ramen now has a semi-permanent location at 247 S. Cooper Street (across from The Slider Inn, next door to Cafe 1912) and will serve dinner Thursdays through Sundays until further notice. This blog post was written in the early days of Lucky Cat (circa January 2017) when they were just a wee pop-up at the Cove. Read this post for The Cove’s current pop-up restaurant info.
Sunday, once known as the day of rest, is currently—due mostly to brunch—the funnest day of the week. Now, thanks to Lucky Cat Ramen Pop-Ups at The Cove, Sunday is also the most delicious day of the week.
Every Sunday the Lucky Cat crew—Zach Nicholson and wife, Sarah—spend an hour hauling their equipment to Broad Avenue and transforming The Cove’s tiny kitchen into ramen central for their weekly pop-ups.
While Zach works in the kitchen, Sarah takes orders at a separate register at the end of the bar. (Meaning, get your cocktails from Parks the bartender and get your noodles from Sarah.) There’s a menu board set up with the daily offerings—usually one veggie bowl, a pork offering or two, and a chicken option.
A half order is $7, and a full is $12. You can add spicy chili oil or an extra egg for $1 each. (Do this.) After you order, find a seat and enjoy a cocktail (order from the bartender) and Sarah will deliver your food when it is ready.
OK, we have to talk about the ajitama, a.k.a. the eggs. One of Zach’s family members raises 300 chickens to provide Lucky Cat with incredible eggs, which they soft boil to perfection and marinate in barrel-aged shoyu from Japan for eighteen hours.
They are nothing short of amazing. Each bowl comes with one ajitama, but as mentioned, adding an extra one is a total pro move.
You can already see that this is not the ramen you met in college, right?
All of the Lucky Cat Ramen animal products (bones, proteins) are delivered weekly from Jackson-based Marmilu Farms and their fresh, authentic noodles are shipped from New Jersey from the same producer that supplies ramen heavyweights such as David Chang of Momofuku and Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen.
It takes many steps to prepare what might seem like a humble bowl of noodles. Their pork broth undergoes a 48-hour cook time, resulting in an incredibly rich and creamy base for the soup. (See above.)
The chashu pork preparation involves several cooking techniques and takes a day-and-a-half to complete. They incorporate sous vide cooking with all of the proteins to ensure perfect and consistent results.
“We take the best of what we’ve learned through working and eating at notable restaurants to bring Memphis the best bowl of noodles we can make,” says Zach.
My favorite is the winter yuzu veggie bowl with lemongrass ginger broth. It is incredibly satisfying, even to non-vegetarians. Lucky Cat Ramen recently introduced two new dishes–coconut curry veggie ramen (with Thai basil, black sesame, and baby bok choy) and spicy Tan Tan pork ramen (with roasted peanut and fried garlic). Um, yum!
Here’s a ramen dictionary to help you order:
Kikurage: a mushroom with a jelly like consistency
Negi: a Japanese variety of onion
Nori (not to be confused with Negi): seaweed
Togarashi: red chili peppers
Yuzu: a citrus fruit
As of June 2, 2017, Lucky Cat began serving dinner Thursday through Sunday nights at 247 S. Cooper Street.
Keep scrolling more about Zach and Sarah’s background in the bonus section at the bottom of this post.
Lucky Cat Ramen
247 S. Cooper Street
Memphis, Tennessee 38104
Thurs. – Sun.
About The Author
Stacey Greenberg is a freelance writer who lives in Cooper Young with her two teenaged sons. She’s a contributor to Thrillist.com, Edible Memphis, I Love Memphis, and Memphis Travel. She’s also the author of the award winning blog, Dining with Monkeys (diningwithmonkeys.com). A lifelong Memphian, she loves the fact that she’s never met a stranger here.
But wait, there’s more!
More About Lucky Cat Ramen
How did Memphis get so lucky? Zach and Sarah both come from culinary backgrounds–he started his career with Erling Jensen and Sarah is a classically trained pastry chef. Then they lived in Austin for while, where they learned about ramen. “
We had never experienced such depth of flavor and combination of textures in one single bowl,” Zach says. They loved it so much that Zach went to work for one of the most popular ramen shops in Austin, where he learned the fundamentals.
The two returned to Memphis two years ago to get married and start a family, and then thought about starting their own business. “Our own ramen cravings went unsatisfied, and we recognized a need,” explains Zach.
Zach and Sarah originally thought starting about a ramen food truck, but they tested the waters with a Lucky Cat pop-up at City & State less than two months ago, then followed up with regular pop-ups at The Cove and Wiseacre.
It’s been such a success that the two hope to go straight to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. They’re working on that now. I Love Memphis will definitely keep you posted.