Food truck empire East Side King expanded westward last month to dive bar and live music venue Hole in the Wall. As the first brick and mortar location, it has greatly increased the quality of food options in the neighborhood surrounding the University of Texas at Austin. So what does a permanent kitchen with running water mean for the menu? Paul Qui of Top Chef fame and partner Motoyasu "Moto" Utsunomiya have revived a ramen program that was originally available at the Grackle location, but they've developed new flavors.
"We're not making traditional ramen," Qui emphatically states. The new location is an opportunity for chef Yoshi Okai, a friend and former colleague from Uchiko, to showcase "all of the crazy flavors in his head and give him freedom with the menu." Okai's ramens are playful, colorful, and even exhibit some Southeast Asian and Mexican influences. He has developed a bacon dashi, using over 80 pounds of bacon per day, that is the basis for two of the soups. For an extra $1.50, they'll top your ramen with a Vital Farms egg that has been "slow poached for an hour—adding a custardy touch," explains Qui. Sun Noodles provides East Side King with custom made noodles.
Hole in the Wall's alcohol selection now includes sake, shochu, and Japanese beers to complement the menu. The new booze, ramen selections, and indoor seating contribute to Qui's overarching goal for all of the East Side King locations. "We want each location to have a different identity," he says. But the blaring music and outdoor picnic tables help maintain that charmingly casual East Side King vibe. Part of the menu is dedicated to old favorites from the other three locations, and the food still tastes great washed down with a humble Lone Star beer.