There’s a secret to dining at Ichiran. Even though this ramen restaurant insists that customers dine alone, people are coming in groups in anyway. And they’ve found a way to eat the noodle soup together. 

When Lindsay Herz and her two friends decided to try this Brooklyn spot, they each took their assigned seats at the long counter. Their spaces were set up like booths. On each side, wooden dividers kept them from seeing each other. Straight ahead was bamboo window shade that prevented them from seeing server’s face sliding the steaming

But then, they each folded back the hinged booth partitions. “We could see each other,” she said.

This is Japanese-style dining for women. At least, that’s how it started 17 years ago. When  the owner, who goes by “Yoshitomi” first opened his shop, he took a survey of people walking by. Local women at the time were embarrassed to be seen eating by themselves. So, Yoshitomi made blocked off counter spaces.

“Many women may feel uncomfortable eating when they feel that people nearby are watching them,” he wrote on the Ichiran website.

Whether it is a cultural difference or just an outdated concept, young New Yorkers are uninterested in dining alone here.

“If I come alone, it would feel lonely,” said Pam Cheng who waited to eat with her boyfriend. “But I guess if you’re isolated, you don’t feel as bad. I don’t think I would want to try.”

Ramen, with preparation options, includes two thin pork belly slices, scallions, and their famous red spicy sauce. 

Though tipping is not allowed here, the cost comes out to be just over $20 for a basic bowl. Extra pork belly with dried seaweed costs another $10.  Other toppings include a hard-boiled egg, mushrooms and dried seaweed, each at about $3 extra.

“Do I think I would pay this much money for ramen again? No,” said Herz after she paid her bill at the counter by the exit.

Customers are led to the waiting room before dining. Traditional music plays in the background of non-native staff stumbling on the word “irashai-mase” – “welcome,” in Japanese. The room is lined with festive red lanterns. Haikus, traditional poems, are written on sheets of paper and are scattered on the walls. A young crowd in $800 coats and Yves Saint Laurent purses sits at each table here.

One piece of paper is handed to every person, to fill out preferences of their order while they wait. There is only one pork-broth-based noodle soup on the menu. But diners can choose options from the richness of the broth, to the amount of garlic used and the texture of the noodles.

There is a total of 73 locations in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and now Brooklyn. The New York branch, at 374 Johnson Ave., opened in October 2016.

Ichiran attracts only the most eager of ramen lovers.The short walk from the Morgan L subway stop is dark at night and littered with trash. Between abandoned industrial buildings, a bright red neon sign reads “Ichiran” in Japanese.