Toyshop Ramen Opens February 22
Portland is having something of a ramen renaissance right now. In the past year, the city welcomed a Slabtown outpost of ramen chain Afuri, plus a handful of independent shops including Menya Hokusei, Wu-Ron’s, and Yokohama Skyline. The newest entry to the scene opens on February 22: Toyshop Ramen, at 3000 NE Killingsworth Street, a bar and counter-service ramen eatery from a team of industry vets.
Named for its collection of about 150 collectible vinyl toys from the likes of Superplastic and Kidrobot encased in glowing LED shelves on the walls, he co-owners behind the project are Isaac Ocejo, Blake Foster, and David Sigal. Ocejo, the chef, has cooked everywhere from Paley’s Place to Tastebud, and gained some ramen experience at Wafu. He has also worked in the front of house, as a bartender, and even as a farm hand. Foster and Sigal ran the cocktail pop-up Zoo Bar, and they’re also the co-owners of red sauce joint Gabbiano’s, which opened in January 2022 just across the street from the spot that would become Toyshop Ramen. Ocejo, who rekindled his interest in making ramen during the pandemic, ran a ramen pop-up called Noodle Gang out of Gabbiano’s, so when the three of them teamed up to open a bar, ramen was the natural food pairing of choice. They also brought bar manager Jethina Campos on board, whose resume includes stints at Keys Lounge and Multnomah Whiskey Library. "She's really bringing this whole thing together—I can't imagine doing this without her," says Sigal.
Ocejo is reluctant to put any labels on his menu other than “playful”—appropriate for a place called Toyshop—but he also notes, “We are not to be played with—the food will be phenomenal.” The opening menu includes six different kinds of ramen, including shio ramen with chicken cha shu and charred leek, miso ramen with pork belly cha shu, and shoyu ramen with spicy pork shoulder cha shu. There’s also a brothless ramen on the menu, plus a vegetarian/vegan ramen and a kids’ bowl. The noodles are made in house with exacting, nerdy precision. There’ll be more varieties on the menu once the shop’s noodle machine arrives, but right now the house noodle is a straight, square-cut noodle at 35 percent hydration, measuring 1.7 mm by 1.5 mm, made with sweet rice flour, a Shepherd’s Grain wheat and barley flour blend, egg white powder, and vital wheat gluten to make a noodle that’s bouncy and firm. Ocejo gushes a little bit when he talks about ramen, and he’s quick to rattle off the stats; he notes that the ramen community, which he met on Reddit, shares its recipes openly. “Everyone’s so supportive,” he says—he’s even found real-life friends via online ramen forums, who have loyally attended his pop-ups and Toyshop’s soft opening.
You can really see the Japan-meets-Pacific Northwest vibe in some of the bar snacks, like miso-glazed rainbow trout, local bitter green salad with roasted pear vinaigrette, and Japanese-style potato salad with the option to add Dungeness crab. The menu doesn’t take itself too seriously; there’s a corn dog, made with a Hebrew National frank and slathered with tangy katsu sauce and Kewpie mayo, wiggling with bonito flakes.
Cocktails, served across a glittery resin bar top, will be a draw, with nostalgia-inducing, toy-inspired names like “Bikini Bottom” and “There’s a Snake in My Boot.” The ingredients are equally fun to peruse, from pandan-infused dry vermouth to furikake and Top Ramen-infused olive brine. A trio of draft cocktails, named The Powderpuff Girls after the similarly-named Cartoon Network show, are pink, green, and blue to match each of the namesake characters.
Though you can’t play with the shop's vinyl toys, you can play with the five pinball machines, which are already set up for league play in the thriving Portland pinball scene. From the bar's DJ booth—a repurposed church pulpit painted in the shop's colors, black and a lively lavender called Mighty Aphrodite—different DJs will be in residence at the bar, spinning funk, soul, and hip hop. And while the bar is proud to be one of the few late-night eateries in the city—it’ll be open until midnight Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays—it’s also proudly family-friendly from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. “Kids love noodles,” he says. “I have a four-month-old and a three-year-old. I’m not gonna build a place where my family can’t come.”
Ocejo hopes that Toyshop Ramen will become a mainstay not just for the neighborhood, but also for people in the service industry who get out late from work—and for the beloved ramen community.
“Life is life and never stops being life, but you can surround yourself with people who are stoked and just love doing something,” he says. “I’m gonna always choose that feeling.”