It is no secret that Menya Rui, one of St. Louis’s hottest concepts, offers highly in-demand bowls of ramen. If you’ve set foot inside, you’ve noticed the aromas, energy and bustle the shop is known for. This full engagement of the senses is intentional, part of a well-oiled machine helmed by St. Louis’s resident ramen expert, Steven Pursley, and his right hand, Erika Pursley. If you’ve been to Menya Rui on South Hampton, you’ve seen Erika deftly maneuver through the tight-knit space. “I always try to work with purpose. Keeping my head down and working hard is what keeps the wheels turning,” Erika says. When you work in a space as compact as Menya Rui, there is no room to do anything but.
The dynamic between the brother-sister duo is deeply symbiotic, and the ramen shop’s dinner service, often packed from open to close, is intensely dependent on the innate trust between the two. “The best way I can describe it is that Steven has his foot on the gas and I’m helping him steer,” she says. “I expo while Steven cranks out ramen bowls, and hands them over to me to top and send them out. We have a pretty solid system down, and it seems to only improve with time.” The crew works with an abbreviated menu: two small plates and six variations of classic Shoyu and Tantanmen ramen, Tsukemen (dipped) ramen and Mazemen (broth-less) ramen. At a place like Menya Rui, where the approach to dining is as efficient as the space which contains it, this synergy between the two is critical to ensure each order is completed with precision.
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Erika has been anticipating forging this path with Steven since he was learning the art of ramen in Japan some years ago. “When Steven went on his training journey in Japan, I always looked forward to what the future would bring for him, and was interested in helping out in any way that I could,” she says. “When he moved back to St. Louis, we got an apartment together and eventually started doing the Ramen x Rui pop-ups out of that space. There’s definitely a big brother/little sister dynamic between the two of us – I’ve always looked up to Steven and am lucky to be able to learn from him, and working together the past year has definitely made that bond even stronger.”
This dynamic, and their approach to partnership, has bled straight into the atmosphere of the entire team. “I think part of our success as a team comes from the pride that everyone has in the work we do,” she says. “We all truly care about providing the best service to guests, and when everyone’s on the same page, it makes all the pieces fall into place.”
Erika’s hospitality background comes largely from working in coffee shops, which makes her no stranger to the fast-paced setting at the ramen shop: It didn’t take her long for her to get into the groove at Menya Rui. Even though the restaurant has been wildly successful, Pursley tries not to overthink it, preferring to stay dialed in to what she’s doing. “From day one, it’s always been about the food and the culture for me. It’s definitely cool to be recognized and I feel extremely thankful that St. Louis has been so receptive to what Menya Rui has to offer, [but] I’m just happy to be in a place where I can share that culture with other people,” she says. “You can’t fake intention, and I think the responsibility every one of us takes on in making Menya Rui a great place shows.”
Menya Rui, 3453 Hampton Ave., Southampton, St. Louis, Missouri, 314-601-3524, Menya Rui on Instagram