Have you been to the new Boxer Ramen location yet? Now just over a week old, the new spot on 23rd and Kearney is serving up the same favorites as its SW Stark and NE Alberta locations. While the small chain has been popular around Portland for a while, for my recently-moved-back self, my visit last week was my first!
If it weren’t for a much appreciated tip-off from my mom I might have missed their fantastic soft opening deal last Friday, free bowls of ramen from 4-7 PM! I can understand it was a great way for the cooks to get in their groove, and to lure in new customers, like me!
Thinking this was going to be similar to Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s, I was expecting a long line out the door, even though I got there on the early side around 5 PM. To much sincere astonishment, there was no line, and I was able to walk in the door and grab an open seat at the bar. There was even a sign out on 23rd, yet very few people seemed to understand the concept that they were receiving a free bowl of ramen! Or maybe not as many people were willing to eat their free ramen at 5 PM like me.
The restaurant is comfortably small, with a full garage style door capable of opening up on sunny days, a few tables in front and a noodle bar in the back facing the kitchen line. It was airy and cozy, with even a small skylight above the bar- a great source of natural light if you’re looking to get the perfect Instagram shot of your ramen.
I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting a lot of food until I was told that I was able to order any one of their four ramens off the menu. The waitress mentioned that the portions were scaled down, yet I still was presented with a seemingly full sized bowl of their spicy red miso ramen. Without request, a side of their popular okonomiyaki tots were slipped to me shortly after.
Let’s get a close up on those tots….
If I had a preferred ramen style I’d say I lean a bit more traditional, something more similar to Kukai Ramen (one of the few highlights of Beaverton). After a few bites at Boxer it was clear that this wasn’t what I’d call a traditional ramen. The broth was rich and delicious, but too peppery, and the pork belly tasted more like ham than its typical bacon undertones, but I can’t say it wasn’t flavorful; it was appreciatively spicy and the noodles were elastic and slurpable. I liked that they also chopped up bits of pork belly and added them to the broth, in addition to the larger pieces you see in the photo. The tots were different than anything I’ve had before. They were topped with a mysterious creamy spicy sauce (mayo and sriracha maybe?), tonkatsu sauce, bonito, togarashi and nori. I thought the presentation was gorgeous, and it was interesting tasting the contrast of the familiar deep fried potato nugget with toppings I’d be more likely to expect on sushi.
Using the small space to the max, you’ll find additional bulk condiments and ingredients on a shelf behind the bar, both decorative and useful. Two of my personal favorites, Sambal Oelek ground chili paste (made by the same company as sriracha) and Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce, were present.
It may be feeling like summer, but it’s never a bad time for a rich, flavorful bowl of some good ramen. If I’m in the area again, I know where to stop.