Junie Ishimori is keeping the Upper East Side warm this winter.
Her pop-up, Junie Dish opened quietly last week, inside Tasti D-Lite at 222 E. 86th St. Yep, ramen in a frozen dessert shop.
Ishimori, who previously owned the East Village's beloved Stogo, which was priced out of the neighborhood in 2012, had been looking for a storefront to share her love of food and community, but New York rental prices remained forboding.
"New York storefronts are so expensive, it's hard to find a place that's sustainable," she said, noting that most locations would break the budget before even opening up shop
After closing Stogo two years ago, Ishimori continued to cook for private clients, basing recipes off travels to Italy, Spain, Colombia and beyond.
"My mom taught me to cook," Ishimori said. "I've learned to cook from moms around the world. Who needs culinary school when you have moms?"
The stroller-crowded sidewalks of the Upper East Side are certainly mom-centric.
While Ishimori is passionate about cooking, she missed the customer interaction she enjoyed while running her previous eatery. Ishimori's friend, Celeste Carlesimo, who founded Tasti D-lite and later sold the brand, still owns the 86th St. franchise and suggested that Ishimori consider opening a pop-up in the space.
At first, Ishimori was unsure about the space: though she ran a successful vegan ice cream business at Stogo, she wasn't sure that a dairy-based shop like Tasti D-Lite would be the best space for her vegan cooking. But because the weather was turning colder and her desire to share her food was growing, Ishimori decided to try running a pop-up, Junie Dish.
Ishimori uses organic ingredients whenever possible, purchasing in local greenmarkets and in Chinatown, and shopping in larger stores like Sunrise Mart and Whole Foods when necessary.
Junie Dish's menu is simple: the only dish is vegan ramen, which comes in small ($8) and regular ($12) sizes. The noodles are Canton wheat or gluten-free bean thread and the dish is adorned with a variety of toppings, from shiitake mushrooms to baby bok choy, almost in the style of soft-serve customization. Her broth is made with umami-packed mushrooms and kelp, and packs additional heat when stirred with her house-made garlic chili oil.
Served in to-go containers, the ramen is surprisingly easy to enjoy on the go, and the cardboard cup makes for ideal broth sipping on a chilly day. Vegetables are served crisp and the noodles are pleasantly soft, and this "delicious food that just happens to be vegan" is arguably one of the neighborhood's healthier fast (but not that fast -- no microwaves are used at Junie Dish) food options.
You may not be craving an ice cream cone this winter, but stopping into an ice cream shop for a hot bowl of noodle soup is a welcome treat.
Junie Dish is open 12 p.m. - 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and Mondays. Ishimori plans to run the pop-up through Christmas, but perhaps longer.