District Ramen Dishes up Authentic Japanese Fare in Newburgh

Discover the taste of Japan in Newburgh—one noodle bowl at a time.

When actor Robert Fontaine Jr. first landed in Newburgh 15 years ago to scout a location for his film “Mi America,” he felt an instant connection. The city’s historic housing stock—some of it boarded up and condemned—brought flashbacks of Park Slope, Brooklyn, where he grew up in the 1970s. The pull was so strong that he bought and restored the 1870s home known as the “Carriage House” on Lander Street and the abandoned building across the street. “It was a war zone at the time,” says Fontaine of his early days in Newburgh’s Ward 1. “Everybody thought I was crazy, but my wife and I fell in love and committed to developing the area.”

On February 14, all the love showed with the debut of District Ramen—located in the abandoned structure that Fontaine purchased in 2018 and fixed up over a two-and-a-half-year period. The eatery serves authentic Japanese ramen in an intimate 1940s speakeasy atmosphere. “We want the people of this area to know that this is their place. It’s a beacon for the community that will open a door to a good, cultural experience,” says Fontaine.

To do that, he tapped chefs Tohma Nagai and Timothy Rendon, owners of Naruto Ramen (which has multiple locations in NYC), to build the menu and train his cooks—head chef Isaiah Sanabria and sous chef Emma Perez, both of Newburgh—how to prepare traditional ramen.

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Fontaine and his wife, Monica Coronatti, had often traveled on weekends to Naruto Ramen in Brooklyn and dreamed of partnering with the team for their project in Newburgh. Fontaine says he “hounded” Nagai by phone for a year until he finally came to check out the city. “He and his family did all their research on Newburgh and felt comfortable, so we started developing a plan.”

Part of that plan was to have District Ramen’s recipes mimic those of the Manhattan-based Nishida Sho-ten (also owned by Nagai’s family). Nothing at District Ramen is prepackaged—all the noodles, broths, and stocks are made in-house. “There were fewer than a handful of true ramen shops in this area, so we think we’ve really filled a culinary void,” says Fontaine.

District Ramen
Courtesy of District Ramen

The space can seat up to 32 diners—and has a clean, casual aesthetic with Japanese flourishes, including a painting at the bar of the rising sun over Newburgh. The goal, he said, was to make it “feel like a vintage social lounge.”

The Perfect Dish

Starters range from shishito peppers and bao buns served with cabbage and roasted tomato and cheese garnis to takoyaki, a beloved street food of fried dough balls filled with octopus.

Ramen dishes include shoyu, a flavorful chicken broth with noodles topped with scallions, menma (pickled bamboo shoots), fishcake, bok choy, bean sprouts, marinated egg, seaweed, and marinated pork. Another option called “The Illuminator” consists of spicy tantanmen broth with noodles and add-ons like bean sprouts, ground pork, chili paste, and ground sesame. The 9 U U (a playful moniker for Route 9W) is a blend of pork-miso broth and served with noodles and a variety of toppings such as corn, or soft-boiled eggs.


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Finish your meal with a cup of Kikusui’s Funaguchi nama genshu, a full-bodied sake; Kunizakari nigori, a rustic, velvety sake; or house sake available by the bottle. District Ramen also serves a variety of local craft beers.

Fontaine says he is proud to have built something residents can be proud of and hopes it will contribute to Newburgh’s renaissance. “Lander Street was once known as one of the most violent streets in America, but people are feeling safer now. It’s definitely quieter at night, and there’s a diversity of people who come here just to explore. For me, that’s a great accomplishment,” he explains. “My vision was to build up the city, and I think we’ve done that with District Ramen. It’s not only a great place to get authentic ramen, but to socialize and dream of what’s possible.”

District Ramen
47 Lander Street, Newburgh

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