Saturday, December 2, 2017

Pikaichi is closing... for now

It seems I’m a bit behind on Boston ramen news. I went to Pikaichi for lunch on Friday and found out that they are closing on Sunday, December 17th. 😢 They announced the closing on their Facebook page and website just before Thanksgiving. Apparently the landlord raised the rent significantly and owner Taka Akatsu decided that he could no longer stay at the Super 88 location.

"We recently received a notice of a major rent increase from the landlord. After careful consideration, we have discovered that we won’t be able to sustain our business with the increased rent."

Taka-san and his wife, Ritsuko-san, opened Pikaichi in March 2011 after selling Café Mami in Porter Square to Carlos Garcia (who now also co-owns Ittoku, Wafu-Ya, and Yume Ga Aru Kara) and buying Ken's Ramen House from Ken Kojima. Pikaichi's menu has gone through a few changes over the years but the ramen has remained largely the same and their prices have remained comparatively low for Boston ramen, making it a popular spot for college students and homesick Japanese expats. They're also the only ramenya in Boston to have free parking which has made it a lot easier for people to come from all over to the area to eat there.

In an era in which Japanese restaurants in the US have largely dispensed with yelling「 いっらしゃいませ !  」 ("irrashaimase"), the standard greeting at all businesses in Japan, Pikaichi brought that tradition back and requires all staff to learn some basic ramenya Japanese to communicate with each other about how many customers are in the house and what dishes have been ordered and entered into the POS system. Although the layout of the space is more like a restaurant than a ramenya, the friend who first recommended Pikaichi to me told me that she felt like she had stepped into Japan for the brief time she was there. Their staff are uncharacteristically welcoming and cheerful compared with the bored indifference of waitstaff at many other Boston area Asian restaurants. Long-time employees know the regular customers if not by name, then definitely by face, although they work hard to make everyone feel welcome.

Staff told me that the hope is to reopen at another location within a few months but no word on where. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a restaurant opening that went smoothly – construction and permitting issues can cause delays – so I expect it will be a while before we can have Pikaichi ramen and curry again.

Pikaichi's farewell message to customers

If you’re able to stop by before the last day, keep in mind that wait times are likely to be longer than usual. Make sure to put your name on the list that is on the clipboard just inside the door. I’ve been going for lunch at 1pm with friends for a while and we usually don’t have much of a wait but yesterday we waited for quite a while. The staff told me they have been very busy since the closing was announced. If you can afford it, please consider tipping generously. The closing was completely unexpected so many staff may not have any idea what they will be doing for work during the closure, which comes just before the holidays. Some of them are long-time employees of Pikaichi.

Pikaichi's hours for the last 2 weeks at Allston location

Pikaichi's last day will be Sunday, December 17th, serving lunch only from 11:30am - 4:00pm. You can follow them on Facebook or check their website for updates on the new location.

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