GENUINE TWP. – Livingston County chef Mark Skelton and his wife Emily Underwood are launching what they call a new concept for the local restaurant scene.
The couple is preparing to open Electric Ramen early next month at 5584 E. Grand River Ave., in a shop window at the Middletown Market building.
“We use traditional methods and sensitivity, but with a modern twist,” said the 40-year-old Skelton, who wanted to open his own place after decades of working as a chef, most recently at Brighton Bar & Grill.
Skelton said Electric Ramen recipes will include a modern Pan-Asian turn to Ramen dishes influenced by Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Indian and other styles of cuisine.
The restaurant will focus on custom takeaway, pickup and delivery via DoorDash. The couple have lunch indoors for about 14 people, and in the future they are considering placing an outdoor picnic table.
“We felt that there was a great demand for something like this, and there is nothing here. You need to go either to Ann Arbor or to Royal Oak … New. I feel there are a lot of other concepts here, so I think we’re going to be a new concept, ”Skelton said.
He said he hopes the restaurant will be accessible to people who are less familiar with the culinary phrase associated with Asian cuisine. The menu, for example, lists English names of dishes and ingredients so everyone knows what they are getting.
He said he wants to use some non-traditional ingredients as well as get as much as possible from local food producers.
“The Ramen places usually use the same ingredients, and it’s usually a battle of broths,” he said.
Michigan mustard greens, roasted sweet corn and jalapeno peppers hit the Electric Ramen menu.
“We have excellent mushrooms (locally). Instead of importing, we have things like Forest Chicken,” Skelton said.
One of the dishes he admires is Korean barbecue with pork belly with boiled egg, candied bacon, watermelon radish, green onions and sweet Thai chili broth.
Guests can customize their order by choosing between homemade noodles, udon noodles or rice noodles and replacing with other broths.
There will also be several dishes of bao, or steamed, dishes with Asian kebabs and miso aioli, including Korean pork brisket, short Kobe ribs, wild mushrooms and sweet potatoes, smoked chicken, and side dishes and a children’s menu.
The restaurant will be vegetarian and gluten-free, and guests can substitute marinated tofu for any protein.
The 33-year-old Underwood said she and her husband have been talking for years about opening their own place. She used to work in restaurants in front of the house and managed, and she will be in charge of “behind-the-scenes” things such as accounting, marketing and social media.
“It was fun to repel ideas from each other,” she said.
She said the restaurant is a sublime version of fast food.
“Usually for a ramen you would need to sit down to eat it,” she said. “We’re definitely trying to switch to takeaway food, which is a trend.”
The couple describes the restaurant’s decor as “retro-futuristic” with neon signs, a bright graffiti pattern wrapped around the counter, and the classic arcade game “Tron: Discs of Tron”, which was originally released in 1983.
Skelton said he was partly inspired by the 1982 futuristic science fiction “Blade Runner,” pointing to a scene in which actor Harrison Ford’s character is in noodles.
Proof of concept
The couple suggests that their location in the town of Genoa may be the first of several.
Electric Ramen will cook using only electricity – no gas flames – hence the name. Skelton said switching to electricity makes cooking more efficient. They will do all this with pasta cookers, soup wells and electric ovens.
“This is something that could be repeated somewhere where a regular restaurant could not be placed, such as airports, hospitals, kiosks and on campus,” he suggested.
He said they would like to open more places, including in small towns.
“There’s Fentan, Milford … there’s these cool little towns, you’re going off the beaten track. I think that concept will work well in these markets.”
Addition to the market
Jerome Caman recently became the new owner of Middletown Market, where Electric Ramen leases space. A few years ago Kamana opened his first Ultimate Pizza and Krispy Krunchy Chicken.
Kamana said someone asks every day about when the Electric Ramen will open.
“He worked very hard to get together,” Kamana said. “I think it will bring something to this area, something else.”
He said having other businesses in the complex and in the market, which is also home to It’s So Fluffy Gourmet Popcorn, helps all sellers.
“We have a restaurant (pizza and chicken), but we are not worried about competition. Any business will always attract more people to the complex,” he said.
In addition to adding Electric Ramen as a tenant, other improvements are happening in the market, which is now focused on becoming a place for specialty liqueurs, wines and craft beers. They plan to hold free tastings of spirits every week, starting with tequila March 25-26, and recently added hand-smoked ice cream.
“We are going to fix the parking lot. We are updating the signs and repainting the outside to make it look fresh. We have cleaned the inside,” he said. “We’re trying to get to the next level.”
Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timor at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennifer_timar.