At the Mobil gas station located at 2525 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, somewhere between the coolers stocked with Bud Light and the Dunkin' Donuts drive-through, you'll find an impressive collection of instant ramen noodles that has sustained class after class of Ringling College of Art and Design students. All the best brands are represented: Maruchan, Nongshim, Top Ramen, Mama and Mr. Lee's Noodles, to name just a few. And there is a dizzying amount of flavor combinations, at prices that range from absurdly cheap ($.50) to incredibly cheap ($1.75).
Second to your local Asian specialty store, it's an inventory that rivals the selection at Whole Foods Market, Publix or Trader Joe's. And it has a devoted following. Melvin Rice, who graduated from Ringling in 2017, recalls visiting the gas station at least once a week, sometimes more during a "crunch week" of exams. "We have a really sizable Asian demographic," he says. (Sixteen percent of Ringling's student population comes from overseas, and 8.4 percent of the student body is Asian.) "Take that, and a bunch of broke college students with no other options besides Burger King, and it's a good market."
Rice says his own go-to buy was Nongshim's Shin Ramyun Spicy Noodle Soup. He notes that Maruchan's Yakisoba brand, as well as the toasted seaweed snacks, were constantly sold out.
While instant noodles may be the foundation of any college student's diet, the dish also claims a rich history that makes it a global food. According to the World Instant Noodles Association (yes, that's a thing), 100.1 billion servings of instant noodles were consumed in 2017, and the United States was responsible for 4.1 billion of those servings. Craving some yourself? Now you know where to go.