What’s on the menu at Crafty Ramen, Toronto’s first location of the popular Guelph-based noodle biz
Name: Crafty Ramen
Contact: 217 Ossington Ave., craftyramen.com, @crafty_ramen
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Previously: Ossington Canteen
Owners: Jared Ferrall, Miki Ferrall and Khalil Khamis
Chef: Jared Ferrall
Accessibility: Not fully accessible
Husband-and-wife team Jared and Miki Ferrall met at a language exchange centre in Vancouver. The pair eventually moved to Tokyo together, where they ate their fill of ramen as Jared worked as a chef and Miki ran a language school. All the while, they wanted to open their own ramen restaurant but needed more start-up capital. Jared got a job cooking on a superyacht, Miki joined the below-deck crew and the duo spent the next few years sailing the world with their ultra-wealthy client.
Having finally saved up enough money, the couple made their way back to Jared’s hometown of Guelph and, in 2017, opened the first location of Crafty Ramen and city’s first dedicated ramen restaurant. They focused on friendly, accessible branding meant to introduce Japan’s number one comfort food to the uninitiated; the result was snaking lines and serious fanfare. They teamed up with one of their regulars, Khalil Khamis, who happened to come from a restaurant-franchising background. With his help, they opened a second location, in Kitchener—then the pandemic hit.
Inspired by at-home cocktail kits, the trio started selling at-home, some-assembly-required ramen kits to make up for lost revenue. They sold like hotcakes and became a fixture of the business even as dine-in restrictions lifted. Doubling down on the retail side, Crafty Ramen now also makes heat-and-eat frozen ramen pucks, which you can find in a freezer at their brand-new Ossington outpost.
During their ramen research days, Jared and Miki travelled from northern Sapporo to the southern island of Kyushu to pick up as much regional inspiration as possible. Paying homage to ramen’s versatility, each bowl on the menu is loosely inspired by a particular region.
Crafty Ramen makes three types of broth: two chicken broths (one light, one rich) and a stellar vegan variety made with kombu and shiitake mushrooms. Their noodles are thin and satisfyingly chewy—quite a feat given that they purposely excluded eggs from the recipe to make the noodles accessible to vegans (half the menu is completely plant-based). Their tare—a concentrated seasoning mixture that literally translates to “sauce”—goes in each bowl first and comes in five varieties including miso, black bean and sesame. Toppings range from traditional to whimsical, like miso gochujang butter in tiny humanoid-shaped moulds).
A tight selection of soft drinks, canned cocktails, kombucha and a variety of local craft brews. “Craft beer and craft ramen are a match made in heaven,” says Jared, looking fondly at a lineup of cans from Bellwoods, Godspeed and Burdock.
A colourful collage of Japanese cultural iconography, designed by Miki, runs along the restaurant’s dining area. (Look closely and find a few Crafty Ramen easter eggs, like the University of Guelph griffin and their first shop’s phone number.) Under an awning lined with fairy lights, six bar seats look out on a black-and-white graphic depicting the inside of a ramen food truck—a homage to Japanese yatai, a mobile food stall dating back to the 17th century. The quirky decor gets a warm, homey feel from walls lined with upcycled wood and exposed brick. And, at the front, a small market area sells heat-and-eat ramen, meal kits and two kinds of house-made hot sauce along with other ramen accessories.