What now?

They warned me. I didn’t listen. Ten years. Pure passion. Epic success. Intolerable failure.

This blog needs more content.

We used to be so pure.

I wrote this on the plane back from San Francisco:

Unfinished. When will it ever end? When should it end?

Not today.

Ramen Shack – THE END

In the beginning, there was a yearning need to output my growing frustrations on being solely known as the creator of the Ramen Burger. Or so I thought.

Instinctively, I always just wanted to be a ramen freak. Then, with Ramen Burger at its prime, I chose to follow my heart, like I always have.

July 11, 2015 –Opening Day at the now defunct Queens Smorgasburg. Photo by Georgia Frierson.

What began as a pop up idea that never materialized at my friend Neil Syham’s Lumpia Shack on the days he didn’t open (hence the name Ramen Shack), the concept of Ramen Shack 屋台 started gaining momentum. For several months, I envisioned a ramen shop that could finally portray the joys of my passion. For several months, it remained just a figment of my imagination.

Classic Shoyu. Photo by Akira Hiratsuka.

Then, in the summer of 2015, through the power of Smorgasburg I was able to translate imagination to fascination as Ramen Shack took shape in unfamiliar territory. Although the Queens Smorgasburg only lasted half a season, I became infected with the pure joy of being able to serve delicate bowls of evolving ramen every week to those who embraced a simple comfort.

Ramen Shack Pop Up at Lumpia Shack in the West Village. Photo by Akiro Hiratsuka.

After a successful move to Winter Smorgasburg at Industry City in the Winter of 2015, we finally landed at Lumpia Shack in the West Village, carrying out the intended concept of popping up every Sunday and Monday. But that didn’t last very long and for months the pop up went dormant, giving way to another concept called Tsukemen NYC. Ramen Shack was over. Or was it?

Ramen Shack at Go Ramen Go Life, Inc. in Long Island City, NY. Photo by Michael Marquand.

Sixteen months after our last pop up, Ramen Shack was reopened as a “permanent pop up” in Long Island City on September 27, 2016. It was a dream come true. For the next two and a half years it became my creative outlet. My ramen force. My ramen reckoning. If you had the chance to experience it evolve throughout those years, you’ve probably never seen a ramen shop like it. I was possessed!

Pop Up Sign. Photo by Michael Marquand.

When is this pop up going to end?” has been the question almost everyone has asked. In my mind…it was never going to end. In my mind…it was going to last forever. But in the end, I chose to follow my heart…

A sober 2018…

On December 31, 2017, 11 minutes before midnight, with one can of Sapporo left in the fridge, I decided to quit drinking alcohol for one year. Why, you ask? Well I’ll get to that, but first let me tell you about my addiction.

I have one addiction. To ramen. No surprise there right? But for most of my adult life, I also enjoyed drinking a few (to many) beers after work to de-stress from my busy workload, even if it meant just zoning out with a six-pack alone on the couch at the end of a long day. It sort of kept me alive.

In all those years, never did I imagine I would (or could for that matter) give up drinking. The cycle was always work hard, drink beer, sleep it off, work hard, drink beer, forget to sleep, work hard, drink shochu–day after day after day. 

Then, a few things happened on that New Year’s Eve. While watching the events leading up to the countdown on television, my 3-year-old daughter slipped while dancing around the living room and fell face-flat onto the hardwood floor, resulting in cuts on both lips. Her face bloodied and screaming uncontrollably, my wife and I panicked. At this time I was already 6 or 7 beers in and even if I felt sober there was no way for me to get in a car and drive her to the emergency room. Fortunately, the cuts were minor and she was able to fall asleep that night without any long-lasting injuries.

For me, I felt useless. I needed to be more responsible as a parent. I needed to be more responsible as a husband. I needed to be more responsible as a friend, as well as, a boss. So I accepted the challenge and left that last can of Sapporo in the fridge.

At first, my friends thought I was crazy. They knew me and they all thought it was some kind of joke. But I’m a pretty stubborn scorpio/snake so I knew, and they soon realized, that this was a serious goal. Another motivational force, was trying to operate and manage three different businesses primarily on my own. I felt that 2018 would be the year that needed 100% of my focus: Full control of my vision and a level-headed direction of resources.

All this said, 2018 was filled with never-ending drama. If there was ever a year that I should have been drinking, this was the year. I resisted.

For the most part, I navigated and parsed out all of the negativity and fought each battle one day at a time. Then September came and October-November became almost unbearable. Honestly, it was a struggle. After deciding to apply for life insurance, a routine blood test resulted in an abnormality in my liver. 

At first, my doctor brushed it off as maybe too much alcohol intake in recent days, but NO! I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol in nine months! So she ordered a bunch of tests and I spent the majority of October and November trying to juggle work, family, doctor visits, and more work, including spending a majority of my 41st birthday (one day before the start of Rajuku NY) in an exam room being prodded and pricked like an expectant mother.

As of this writing, every other test has come back normal and it is still a mystery as to why the abnormality still exists. It could be a myriad of things and we’ll just have to keep checking one test at a time, one day at a time. For now, I feel as healthy as a 20-year-old and I can’t wait to keep building my ramen dream.

My decision to quit drinking was never for health reasons, but ironically maybe it really was. If I hadn’t have quit, perhaps my health could have gotten a lot worse. One year without drinking may have been the best decision of my life. One year to get more years. It sort of kept me alive.

And here we are today, December 31, 2018. I’ve accomplished my goal: One year without any alcohol. I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked this year and there will be no slowing down from here on out. In 2019, I will need to work even harder. Many of you, including myself, were looking forward to raising a glass together, but it looks like I’ll be keeping that last can of Sapporo in the fridge a little bit longer. One addiction is more than enough. Cheers to 2019. Let’s make it a good one.

Made in NYC

We made it! Slowly, we will get bigger and better. It’s not easy running 3 different companies at the same time but all 3 are necessary for my vision. Fear of failure is always imminent (for I have failed on many occasions), though I’ve always seemed to struggle for the right reasons with some force of luck managing to pick me up. I still don’t know what the future holds, but it’s there…I feel it.


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The ramen yin and burger yang

For years, Ramen Burger has been my prize creation. For years, Ramen Burger has been its own dominant force in the summer. For years, Ramen Burger’s dominance would dissipate in the winter. For years, FIVE years, we waited for it to be summer.

They said we needed to act fast and cash in on the attention. I said we needed to be more patient and build a foundation. They said the hype was luck and would die fast and short. I said the hype was bred to live slow and long.

We missed out on opportunity. We didn’t act fast enough. We let them copy us. We are the losers.

I am still here. I put in 80 hours when everyone else was putting in 40. I tried to stay true to my prophecy.

Yet, I am not a success and still one step from failure.

But for what it’s worth, Ramen Shack has become the perfect complement to Ramen Burger. As I had imagined it would.

Five years later, Ramen Shack has matched the monthly sales of Ramen Burger, albeit in the middle of summer. Yes Ramen Shack is open more days and 50 times more work to maintain, but inside I feel like we are finally making progress.

I can’t wait for it to be winter.


Hi there.  My name is Keizo Shimamoto and I am a Ramen Freak.  What does that mean, you ask?  Let’s see, how can I explain.

In 1983, I ate my first bowl of ramen. For the most part I do not remember it, but I do remember that I was in Tokyo and that it was a traditional shoyu (soy sauce) flavor.  (Thank you mom for sharing that first bowl with me!)


In 2007, I started a ramen blog called Go Ramen! and began posting reviews of every ramen shop in Southern California. In just half a year I had reviewed 48 different shops and ranked them.  Obviously, food reviews are very subjective and my reviews weren’t the best, but hey I just really enjoyed slurping.

In 2008, my blog traveled back to Tokyo not only once, but twice, and I became reacquainted with my ramen obsession. It was during these trips that I began feeling like my future had to involve ramen somehow, someway. It was also the year of the Foo-Foo Challenge–31 consecutive days of slurping all 31 ramen on the menu.

Starred Photos1

In 2009, I embarked on “The Dream Ramen Journey”–28 days, 21 cities, 55 bowls of ramen. And then it happened. This was the year I became a Ramen Freak. This was the year I quit my cush corporate programmer job and decided to move to Japan to learn from some of the best. This was the year I became friends with Ivan Orkin and became his apprentice at the original Ivan Ramen in Minami-Karasuyama–a start any Ramen Freak would die for.


In 2010, I was recruited by one of my favorite ramen shops in Tokyo–Bassanova. It was here that I learned of my ramen destiny. It was too true to be a dream and too amazing to be real, but it was. I was living the ramen life and cherishing every moment.

In 2011, I was reminded how shaky this life can be. I left Bassanova for a brief stint at the famous Nakamuraya in Ebina, but returned to Bassanova when I got a call from the big boss. Less than three years into my ramen dream and I was now the sole manager (店長) of a ramen shop in Japan. I also ate a personal record 600 bowls of ramen this year.

In 2012, Ramen Dreams wins best short at Food Film Fest in NYC!!!

In 2013, from Munchies to moving to NYC to creating the Ramen Burger, life would never be the same.

In 2014, CONAN!!! Five years from quitting my job and moving to Japan, I felt that I reached my peak. Eerily I was right and there was still a lot more mountain to climb.


In 2015, the shack came to life. Born out of my frustration and a relentless love for ramen, my passion was finally center stage.

In 2016, Go Ramen! Go Life! became a reality.

Go Ramen Go Life

In 2017, I reached a whole new level.


In 2018?