At Prairie Noodle’s first pop-up event in Edmonton, co-founder Arden Tse expected maybe 50 people to show up.
“But we sold out 100 bowls 15 minutes before we opened. And we had to turn another 70 or 80 people away.”
Prairie Noodle Shop, now open as a restaurant on 124 Street in Edmonton, serves ramen. Tse calls it fusion, because the Japanese soup recipes are made with local ingredients and based on Alberta food traditions. But, as he explains, that makes it all the more authentic.
“In Japan, wherever you go, there’s over 20 regions where they have their own specialty broth because it takes on the flavour and agriculture of wherever it comes from.
“So we decided to do something local and stay true to the spirit of what ramen is,” Tse said.
Since that first pop-up prepared Prairie Noodle’s signature dish, the prairie pork ramen, its popularity has only grown.
“People took to it. We put up our reservation system for pop ups online, on Event Brite, and they would sell out in less than five minutes. Literally, if you blinked, you missed it. I remember one customer telling me on Twitter, she said, I literally went to the bathroom, came back, and the tickets were sold out,” Tse said.
Having such great success with their pop-ups gave Tse and his partners the confidence to open a restaurant. So they started fundraising, with ATB’s help, and started a campaign on Alberta BoostR.
“BoostR gave us huge exposure, to a lot of people who weren’t online. Because the thing is, our presence to that point was kind of an underground, you had to be on social media to know about us,” Tse said.
“Just before we opened, we did a media release with the ATB team here and the Minister of Economic Development. It was an amazing opportunity. Wellington Holbrook was great, he’s been such a great supporter of ours.”
Prairie Noodle Shop opened just before Christmas.
“It’s had its challenges. But I think that’s what real entrepreneurship is about. Entrepreneurs overcome. And we have to adapt. And we have to get back up after we’ve been knocked down. Because it’ll happen time and again,” Tse said.
Ironically, one of Prairie Noodle’s biggest challenges was how popular it was before it even opened. So in its first week, attendance surpassed expectations yet again.
“We were overwhelmed. That first week we were not prepared. And so the food was inconsistent,” Tse said.
So Tse and his team took a break over Christmas and worked hard to figure things out. They made the changes necessary to get their food back to their high standards and their systems in place to deal with the high demand. And they succeeded.
“I have a saying: the only way out is through. And so far, so good. It’s been a pretty good January and we’ve got some great plans for the spring and summer. Different food menu items. We just want to come up with a new fresh experience so we’re always going to be adding things, changing things up a little bit,” Tse said.
The goal is to “provide Edmontonians with just a great new different experience, something fun, a night out, and that’s what we want to be known for, just a fun place to come,” Tse says. And so far—so good.