Ramen lovers rejoice: Wagamama is finally coming to New York.
The London-based chain of casual, pan-Asian cuisine has signed a lease for a Fifth Ave. space overlooking Madison Square Park. It is scheduled to open in summer or fall of 2016, New York Post reports. Wagamama serves ramen, curries, donburi, and a variety of noodle dishes.
Wagamama, which means “naughty child” in Japanese, was created by chef Alan Yau. Its first restaurant opened in London in 1992. It now has 140 locations around the world, including four in Boston. But until now, it had yet to make an appearance in New York City.
Wagamama won the contract because the landlord believed that it was the “right operator” for the neighborhood that surrounds Madison Square Park. As the landlord’s representative Jared Lack told New York Post: “the ownership was looking for the right operator, not the last dollar.”
The space formerly housed Dewey’s Flatiron, a bar that closed in early 2014. It tried to offer the dollars, but apparently was not the “operator” the landlord sought. “I really thought [the landlord] would change their minds,” owner Edward Dobres told DNAinfo upon the restaurant’s closing. “They said it wasn’t a matter of money. They just said they wanted to go in a different direction,” he said.
Dewey’s served up its classic American fare at a time when “shootings and stabbings happened all the time” in Madison Square Park, according to Dobres. Wagamama’s arrival is not just about a change in cuisine; it’s about a change in the social fabric of the Madison Square Park neighborhood.