Kojin Noodle Bar – Authentic, Unique and Fabulous
I can’t tell you how many times I have walked by Kojin and didn’t pay it any attention. Kojin Noodle Bar is located at 502 Southard Street, just a half a block off of Duval, and quite honestly blends into the street scene. There is a small take-out window that may catch your eye, but trust me on this… don’t walk by without stopping in for lunch or dinner.
Kojin is modeled after an authentic Japanese noodle bar. Having never been to a Japanese Noodle Bar before, I didn’t know what to expect. But, the limited menu and seating certainly looks like a Japanese restaurant you would see on television.
The kitchen is behind the front counter. You can watch the chef make your ramen, your dumplings or even your steamed buns. From our vantage point, it was fascinating to watch him make the dishes. It was like watching an artist create art.
Unlike a lot of places in Key West, this is not a tourist destination stop. There are no kettle drums playing in the background and the walls are not splashed with tropical blues, greens and pinks. The atmosphere is truly that of a Japanese dining experience.
With limited seating and room inside, you quickly realize why the take out window is where it is… on the outside of the restaurant. There are seats at the bar and a few tables along the downstairs wall. There is a small upstairs seating area with four tables. This place is a cozy, quiet place right off of Duval.
Without the tourist trappings, most of the diners are locals. During our visit, we sat by a family with a small toddler. He was entertaining and in love with his food. His parents ordered their usual and were comfortable and content to entertain their son and chat while they waited. The table across from us was filled with young people who work at a local hotel and were out enjoying a great meal and a few drinks. They fully admitted they were addicted to the food and came just about every day for dinner. Quite a testament to the quality of the food at Kojin.
This brings me to the fabulous part of Kojin. The food. I admit, I over ordered. I couldn’t choose just one item so I ordered a variety of food to try. Normally, the steamed buns or dumplings and a beer would be enough for dinner, but the spicy peanut ramen with shrimp was just too tempting to resist.
Dinner began with a tall glass of Japanese beer. They offer several beers on tap along with hot or cold Sake. Then came the Chicken Dumplings. These were filled with such flavorful chicken and the dumplings had a nice texture. The sauce added another layer of flavor so don’t forget to dip the dumplings into the sauce.
The Steamed Buns with Pork Belly are divine. The soft buns held up to the crisp cucumber and the pork belly simply melted in your mouth. Little bite size pieces of heaven.
The Spicy Peanut Ramen with shrimp only comes in one size. Other items on the menu can either be ordered as a full or half bowl. This dish only has one size. It is a good portion size and if you order other items, it could possibly be shared. The peanut sauce made the noodles. This isn’t your cheap Ramen noodles you remember from your college days. This is an elegant dish, freshly prepared with great ingredients.
Overall, Kojin Noodle Bar is one of my new favorite stops. It’s a little different than your typical Key West menu, but the food is spot on and the atmosphere is unique and fits in with the vibe of the Island. If you are craving noodles or want to step off of Duval and try something authentic, unique and fabulous, then head over to Kojin Noodle Bar.
They are open Monday through Saturday 11am to midnight and Noon to 9pm on Sundays.