Steve Swart, whom you might also know from his DJ performances around town, began Ruckus Ramen as a simple passion project. A series of sold-out, one-nightonly events led to his ramen concepts taking up permanent residency inside the Avenue Café. Instead of beer nuts and chips, Avenue patrons — thanks to Swart — are treated to high-end ramen, seaweed salads and spicy garlic edamame.
Swart began his gourmet cooking journey as a way to alleviate work-related stress.
He and a close friend held pop-ups around Lansing to test out his unique recipes. He eventually found himself with a devoted following that hungered for more of his original Asian cuisine-inspired dishes.
What was the vision you had for your restaurant?
I first envisioned Ruckus Ramen as a small food truck in a bar where I would serve food out of a small window. I imagined that I would be doing most of the cooking and the work by myself. The response has been so good that it has been overwhelming and exciting.
How did you come up with your original recipes?
In the beginning, we had an excess amount of chicken in stock. One day, we were in the kitchen messing around making curry, and decided to use some of the chicken. We wanted to start off by using what we already had in the kitchen and tried to make good decisions with that. We originally used grilled chicken and have since implemented the use of fried chicken.
Everyone was blown away by how good it was right off the bat. It’s almost a mistake that we started using it. It has grown to be one of our best selling ramen dishes.
What have been the ups and downs since opening?
My highlight and lowlight are somewhat the same. The requirements of running a business have been challenging. I’ve been focusing on running the business and doing it correctly. Doing that means spending less time cooking. I now have a really strong team that does a great job doing a majority of the cooking.
I started this business with the hopes of cooking all the time. Instead of focusing on cooking everyday, I spend time to work on the business side of things, which is why it is a gift and a curse.
How has your experience been since partnering with the Avenue Café?
Speaking for myself, I think it has been really great for the both of us. I don’t think the success of the business would have been the same had I started somewhere else. You normally don’t get the opportunity to open up a restaurant this big when you are still learning how to run a business.
This partnership has created a lot of potential. Dealing with a high volume of customers is something I never thought I would have to manage.
The experience has just been wonderful.
The owner, Colleen Kelley has been great and she has been an amazing resource in helping me learn how to run a business.
What’s next for Ruckus Ramen?
Within a year or two, we hope to expand.
But, as of now, I want to continue to focus on how to run the business side of things more effectively and master that before taking the next step.
There are a few business options floating around, but we have not settled on what we are doing next. The demand has been so good and the staff really enjoys doing the work, so there is no reason to not expand the business. East Lansing and Detroit are two locations that we have in mind, but nothing has been solidified.
Our focus right now is to continue putting out good food, participating in fun events and trying out new things with the menu.
Ruckus Ramen Inside the Avenue Cafe
2021 E. Michigan Ave. Monday-Saturday 3 p.m.-1 a.m. (517) 999-7549 www.facebook.com/ ruckusramen