Ramen Shop in Rockridge, Oakland is our go-to for cocktails, noodles, and an overall good time. We first met J.J. and Sam, two of the owners, on a trip to Japan in 2011, where J.J. lived for many years apprenticing under a ramen chef.
Back in Oakland, J.J., Sam, and Rayneil sought to create a restaurant that fostered a community around good food and drinks. We were overjoyed when they opened their doors in 2012, and Ramen Shop quickly became one of the most popular restaurants in the Bay Area.
We've collaborated with Ramen Shop many times over the years – they are awesome partners in that they are down for almost anything! Like when they hauled over their noodle maker, The Richmen, to Umami Mart for a ramen noodle-making event (so fun!) or when we had our very first Sake Gumi Social in their new bar space next door – a members-only event to learn about genshu sake. Most recently, they hosted Hiroshima Tsukemen Night, where J.J. created a tsukemen dish in the Hiroshima style and we paired it with sakes from the region. It was a blast!
Ramen Shop also boasts one of the greatest cocktail lists in the East Bay – from original cocktails and highballs, to the classics. You can always count on any of the bartenders to make a fantastic cocktail, and we are humbled that they use many bar tools from Umami Mart as well as serve drinks in a lot of our glassware.
Recently, Lauren Steele took the helm as bar manager, bidding farewell to Chris Lane's tenure of four years. While we'll miss Chris dearly, we are so excited for the energy and passion that Lauren will surely bring to Ramen Shop's bar program.
Lauren, who has worked behind the bar in San Francisco over the years (like Tradition and Nopa), started at Ramen Shop a year ago, at the urging of her former colleague Chris. In Bartender Spotlight fashion, we asked a few questions to get to know Lauren a little better.
Where do you go to unwind and get a drink?
How did you get into bartending?
I started in college, a friend of mine brought me into cocktail serve at Rye bar about 10-11 years ago and I worked my way up from there.
What is your favorite bar tool?
The Hawthorne Strainers. I love the weight of them and that I can use them with both my shaking tins and mixing glasses.
What is your favorite glass?
The Hard Strong Diamond Cut Highball glasses are elegant and feel good to hold. I don't think I've ever broken one of these, which is a miracle considering I'm notorious for my butterfingers.
What are your favorite drinks?
Aperitif style cocktails and anything served in collins like a Rum + Tonic (with 8 year Barbancourt) or Scotch + Sodas. Old man drinks.
What drink pairs best with a Ramen Shop dish?
We have a great wine program headed by Jonathan Waters, as well as a constantly rotating beer list curated by Cameron White. These guys have something I want to try every week. Recently I enjoyed the To Øl 1 Ton of Blackcurrant Wild Ale with a Little Gem and Mendocino Nori Salad. It was perfect.
What is your vision for the Ramen Shop bar?
Chris has established a solid foundation for me to work off. While we do have different palates, I really respect his program and will continue to offer drinks in the same format with a variety of highballs, spirits, aperitifs and original house cocktails. It's important that there be a range of options for our guests – something for everyone. My major focus will be on keeping the bartenders happy because they're the ones who make this place a wonderful experience.
On our most recent visit, Lauren made us a Martini with the newly released Nikka Gin. Full of notes of sansho peppercorns and citrus, Lauren's Martini variation highlighted this unique and special gin.
1. Build the drink into the mixing glass.
2. Add plenty of ice into the mixing glass.
3. Stir with barspoon.
4. Strain into a glass.
5. Garnish with lemon twist and serve.
Sidenote about the Short Mixing Glass – we brought in this glass about three years ago at Chris' request. They are now a permanent fixture in our mixing glass catalog and are used not only at Ramen Shop, but in New York bars like Bar Goto and Bar Moga.
We're looking forward to more fun collaborations with Ramen Shop in the next year – and seeing more of Lauren behind the bar!