PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The entrepreneurs behind Chuck Danger’s Noodle Gang and Gabbiano’s Italian restaurant in Northeast Portland have teamed up to give locals a nostalgia-inducing ramen restaurant, cocktail bar, gaming area and late-night hangout spot all in one.
Chef Isaac Ocejo already had a relationship with his co-owners David Sigal and Blake Foster before opening Toyshop Ramen.
During the pandemic, Ocejo and his wife sold ramen kits that quickly became popular, bringing in about 100 orders each week. Sigal would help the chef make his noodles, and then when he opened Gabbiano’s in 2022, he allowed Ocejo to launch his physical pop-up shop there.
“[The pop-ups] were going really well, and I just think we had this moment where we were like, ‘We really want to eat ramen and drink cocktails and do it late at night. We think other people do, too. Let’s just make this a thing.’” Sigal said.
Ocejo says he had no intentions of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant, but with Sigal and Foster’s guidance, he started to believe that opening a new ramen bar was feasible.
In the initial planning stages for Toyshop Ramen, the co-owners brainstormed about what they could do to elevate their idea of serving cocktails and ramen. But after they thought about Ocejo’s love of collectible toys, the overall theme of the restaurant was a no-brainer for the group of ‘90s kids.
With the help of Quarterworld, a Portland-based arcade bar and ‘pinball paradise,’ the owners had no issue finding classic games for Toyshop Ramen guests to play.
As far as the other decor, Ocejo had a clear vision for what he wanted — even down to some old Japanese movie posters that remind him of an old Japanese restaurant he worked in.
“I think this was such a project from the heart in a funny way,” Sigal said. “I just didn’t really feel like we needed an interior designer. We’re just gonna put stuff that we like up and it’s gonna be a reflection of us.”
Their wacky design choices, such as the purple walls painted in the color “Mighty Aphrodite,” have resonated well with the Toyshop Ramen patrons who have supported the ramen bar since its grand opening date of Feb. 22.
On that Wednesday, Portland saw a record 10.8 inches of snow.
“It’s one of those things where we already knew that opening a restaurant was a daunting task and it’s just like, ‘What’s a little snow?’” Ocejo said. “If it wasn’t that, it was gonna be something else. That’s our new motto for the restaurant: bob and weave.”
Since then, Sigal says the ramen spot has been running at ‘breakneck speed.’
From its Katsu Korn Dawgs and spicy ramen bowls to brown butter miso cookies and draft cocktails named after the three Powerpuff Girls, Toyshop Ramen aims to be a fixture in its Northeast Portland neighborhood with a wide variety of menu offerings.
Toyshop Ramen is located at 3000 NE Killingsworth St. The restaurant is open from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and closed on Monday and Tuesday.
After 9 p.m., the restaurant only accepts patrons 21 and up for its late-night bar service. And on weekends, DJs come in to play ‘groovy tunes.’