Pop Ramen has arrived! Two Birmingham chefs and longtime friends, Addison Porter and Cory Bolton, are coming together with the team behind MELT to provide a fantastic new food truck experience to the Magic City. The Pop Ramen experience brings to patrons what chefs and many other late shift employees experience on a nightly basis, but with the finest ingredients and creative combinations that one could hope for. They have begun taking bookings and interested foodies can keep up with the buggy’s schedule on Facebook and Instagram.
“We’ve been working together off and on for seven, going on eight years now. We came to the MELT and Fancy’s family right before COVID started,” Bolton shares. The duo has prepared dishes at Alabama favorites like Ocean in 5 Points South and River in Tuscaloosa. “Really nice higher-end restaurants. That’s the world we came from in fine dining. Then we got with the MELT team and COVID has changed so much, and we’re so lucky to be with them and an ownership group that believes in us even through these hard times.”
It was Spring of 2021 when the dynamic culinary duo decided to seriously pursue their idea of putting a professional spin on what chefs have done for centuries - making the best use of random ingredients at home after a long day of cooking for others. “Coming home and putting together a ramen bowl. And it might not be traditional, it might not be classic. But it’s like ‘What do I got in my fridge? I got a pork chop in there. An egg. Some onions. Mexican hot sauce.’ And you’re just loading it up with different stuff and you end up with generally a pretty good outcome. Even at 2 o’clock in the morning with the freeze-dried noodles. So we thought what if we did fresh noodles and high-quality ingredients? It’s a chef’s take on raiding a pantry late at night.”
“Ramen is a life-saver. Whether you’re just low on cash, don’t have a lot to eat, or need something quick. That’s the essence of Pop Ramen,” Porter relays. The chefs shared this sacred purpose with the MELT team and the collective soon entered the process of building a customized ramen buggy to serve the people of Birmingham. Their earliest moments taking the buggy out have shown that the city supports the idea as much as the Pop Ramen team - and this is only just the beginning of the wave. "We’ll be all around the city from lunch to dinner to late-night. We’re really excited to be a part of the food scene in the city and serve all these people - some we know and some we don’t yet.”
“We took our vision and turned it into something fun that’s not trying to take itself too serious. It was cool to make a lot of meals that were reminiscent of things that we’ve already had. Like when you’re going through the mall and they hand you samples of chicken on a toothpick. To be able to get that feeling back I think will resonate with a lot of people. A pretty nostalgic feeling. You’ll see some of that stuff on the menu. We have a loaded dumpling dish. We have a food court chicken that’s one of the protein options that we put in a lot of bowls. It’s us trying to make chicken - maybe a little more flavorful, maybe a little bit more pizazz - but the chicken which we used to get in the food court. Which the food court is about to be extinct. Those are the things we know. Chicken thighs and good soup broth. Fun ingredients and fun names. That’s what we want. We want it to be fun. We want it to be like a party on wheels. We’re not trying to take ourselves too serious. We know not every little bit of it is authentic, but it’s authentic to us as chefs. That’s where the authenticity comes. We’re taking our time to use good ingredients and quality things and then making it the right way,” the team shares, “It’s geared towards the American palette in the sense that we eat some of everything. It’s as simple as putting what you have in a bowl of ramen. I’m sure everyone when they come home would love to have beautiful slices of Chashu pork and a four-day-old broth that they’ve been working on. But sometimes at 11pm you’re like ‘I’m about to make some noodles and I’ve got some spicy chilis.’ That’s what a lot of people understand I think. That’s what we eat, certainly with chefs. We eat a lot of what’s available, it’s taking whatever you have and making it beautiful.”
Bolton and Porter are building on a wonderful vision and years of hard work, and are honored to be a part of a food scene that is already so dedicated to the craft. “For me, Birmingham is what I call home. I’m from Springville right outside of the city, and this has been my home. Growing up and looking up to the chefs in the city like Frank Stitt and George (Reis) at Ocean, (Chris) Hastings, and Chris Dupont,” Cory reflects, “I haven’t gotten to work for all of those chefs but obviously growing up trying to become a chef you look up to this city’s food scene and what an amazing food scene they had. So it’s just a humbling experience for me, even if it’s just my ramen buggy, to be a part of that history and that amazing food culture that Birmingham has.”
Addison agrees with Bolton’s sentiments, stating “I am an out-of-towner. A transplant at this point. I think that coming here, I really fell in love with the community and how people embraced - especially food and drink - service here. I felt that I couldn't come here and half-step with all these great people around. I’m here so I have to keep that legacy of good food and available food going.”
“If you’re going to cook in Birmingham you better bring the noise,” the Pop Ramen team states to summarize their sentiments about the Magic City food scene. The noise does seem to have been brought with the city’s latest food experience.