I know it may sound a bit odd, but one of our all-time favorite restaurants to frequent in London is Wagamama. The fast-casual, Japanese-inspired noodle house offers a range of ramen, teppanyaki and more. And, it always pleases us - mind, body and soul.
On the very first day my family arrived in London this summer, we dragged our travel-weary bodies from our rented flat, away from our beckoning beds, just so we could go to the Wagamama in nearby Leicester Square. My husband and I craved its Japanese comfort food served up to patrons sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at long, communal wooden tables - and we couldn't wait for our two boys to sample it, too. As expected, Wagamama did not disappoint us at all.
The restaurant chain opened its first location in 1992 and now boasts restaurants in 17 countries including three in the Boston area - but none in Chicago. I wish that wasn't the case, but it is - at least for now.
A Wagamama passion blossoming since 2002
My husband and I first ate at Wagamama during a trip to London in 2002. We loved the whole experience. You're squeezed in between other people happy to be sitting down to a big bowl of ramen or a plate of soba. Your order is scribbled down in ink on your paper placemat. Your food is brought to you whenever it's ready - even if that means your entree comes before your appetizer. And, you're invited to sit back and dig in.
Of course, we had to see if there was a Wagamama in the U.S. too, and we were delighted to see there are several restaurants in Boston. Okay so that's on the east coast and we live smack dab in the middle of the midwest, but we thought that could mean the restaurant chain would soon be setting up shop in other American urban locales.
But, alas, even after all this time, you can still only enjoy Wagamama in the U.S. if you're in Beantown.
An ideal restaurant for solo diners and families alike
My husband and I still laugh about how he tried to eat at Wagamama as much as possible when he was in the United Kingdom for a business trip a few years ago. For a solo traveler, it is a great dining option because the communal-style tables offer you the opportunity to speak with other single diners - or bury your head in a book (or available copy of Time Out London) if you so choose.
When we decided to head to London this summer, we knew we would have to dine at Wagamama, and we were interested in seeing if our kids liked it just as much as we did. From our first meal there on our first day of vacation, our sons were hooked, too.
The kids menu at Wagamama is perfect in so many ways. It offers a mix of noodle and soup dishes that provide great options for picky and adventurous little eaters alike. Plus, the actual kids menu offered endless entertainment for my sons with engaging activities that allowed their imaginations to run wild and kept them happily coloring and creating while we waited for our first dishes to arrive at our table.
Most dishes on the menu are less than $15, making it an affordable, healthy option for any solo travelers or families needing healthy, globally inspired sustainance.
Holding out hope for a Wagamama to open in Chicago
Now that we're back in Chicago, we are still holding out hope that Wagamama will venture out west - at least as far as the midwest - and open a restaurant or two in the Windy City. To us, the restaurants would do great in this city that embraces family-friendly, casual, healthy dining - and offer another global option for local diners.
We've even talked about potential Chicago locations well suited as sites for the restaurant chain. Since Wagamama seems to do well with tourists, locals and business people alike, they would be a strong draw at Navy Pier and even in the lower level of Block 37. I think they'd also pull in a crowd near Wrigley Field and really any other neighborhood with an eclectic mix of families, tourists and others.
And, so, I make a wish that hopefully reaches the ears of the powers that be at Wagamama to consider opening up a restaurant here in Chicago. I promise it will be a sure hit - and you can count on this loyal family to help spread the word to all who will listen and want to enjoy your special brand of fresh, fast, Japanese-inspired cuisine.
Have you been to Wagamama? If so, which restaurant location did you go to? And, what are your favorite dishes? Do you share my family's wish to have one open in Chicago? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.
This is one of a series of Raising World Citizens blog posts following my family's recent trip to London. If you liked this one, you may want to read these London-inspired posts too:
If you're looking for global-inspired cuisine in Chicago (while we wait for a Wagamama to hopefully open here), you should check out my lists of the best global sandwiches and global ice creams in the Windy City.
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