Watching Boiseans slurp noodles while ping-pong balls bounced early this week, Andrew Hanebutt couldn’t help feeling slightly relieved.
“It’s like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s actually finally happening,’ ” he remembers with a laugh.
It’s been three years since Boise Fry Co. announced that it would open RamaPong, a basement bar selling hot bowls of ramen and hot games of ping-pong. Unforeseen delays stalled the project, drawing groans from excited Boiseans.
But now it’s time to grab a paddle with one hand, chopsticks with the other.
RamaPong is ready for the masses.
After a couple of private events held Monday and Tuesday, RamaPong will make its “pop-up” debut from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday before formally opening Monday.
There’s still interior decorating to be done. An official grand opening is a month or two away. And you might miss the place if you walk past Boise Fry Co. at 204 N. Capitol Blvd. RamaPong is nestled below it, down some stairs in the Adelmann Building.
But four ping-pong tables are set up. Steaming bowls of ramen are being served in the bar and in a small restaurant dining room. Starting Monday, liquor will flow. Only beer, wine and a rotating menu of sake will be available Saturday.
Hanebutt, the marketing director at Boise Fry Co., isn’t sure whether people are happier about Downtown Boise having a ping-pong bar or a ramen restaurant. “It goes hand in hand,” he says.
“People are definitely excited that there’s going to be a ramen place,” he says. “(And) people want to have more activities down here. I had a couple of ... friends come down and they said, ‘Yeah, this is great. You can actually come down and play pong if you want to, play beer pong, too.’ ”
RamaPong charges a rental fee to use tables, paddles and balls ($8 per hour during non-busy times, $8 per half-hour during busy times). Table tennis and beer pong tournaments will be organized in the future.
Right now, many diners just seem curious about the bowls of noodles. Another ramen restaurant, Ramen Sho, opened in the nearby Capitol Terrace building in 2017, but closed a year later.
At RamaPong, you have a choice of house broth or sweet potato broth, salt-, soy- or miso-based tare, plus add-ons ranging from braised pork “cutz” and bison meatballs to onsen egg and togarashi sweet potato.
With protein add-ons, expect to pay around $11 or $12 for a large bowl. It’s a surprisingly filling concoction laced with ingredients such as green onion, shiitake mushrooms and a strip of seaweed.
A tasty side option is chicken katsu ($8.14), which has a salty, crispy batter. It comes with intense, house-made teriyaki dipping sauce on the side. (Don’t forget to squeeze wedges of lime on the chicken. Seriously.)
RamaPong allows minors until 4 p.m. After that, it’s patrons 21 and older only. Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
That’s right — RamaPong is open until 2 a.m. on weekends. Downtown bargoers are about to discover ramen broth slopped down the fronts of their shirts the next morning.
RamaPong plans to add live music to its menu this year. Hanebutt hopes the bar eventually becomes a Treefort Music Fest venue.
But that’s down the road. For now, he’s just rubbing his eyes with the rest of us.
RamaPong is here — for reals!
“We’ve had that space for so long,” he admits. “It’s just been, like, I can’t believe it. Finally!”
▪ Online (starting Saturday): facebook.com/ramapongboise. Saturday).