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Boise Fry Co. Finally Serves Up RamaPong

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What do Ping-Pong, beer pong and ramen have in common? If you lived in Boise back in 2016, an answer tinged with sadness might immediately spring to mind: RamaPong, the underground bar combining noodles and table tennis that Boise Fry Co. proposed and then abandoned years ago. But according to BFC "CEO Maverick" Brad Walker, it's time to turn those frowns upside down—because RamaPong is back, and it's projected to open its doors at 204 N. Capitol Blvd. in April.

Walker said that past reversal "was a lot to do with kind of putting the cart before the horse," particularly when it came to costs, but now BFC's success has put it in a strong position to tackle the RamaPong project.

"We're just pushing forward, we're pushing ahead. We're doing it strategically because we want to grow Boise Fry Co. at the same time, and Press & Pony," Walker said.

"I think we're overall just in a lot better place to do this now than we were two years ago," added BFC Marketing Manager Andrew Hanebutt. "At the time, it was kind of a gut blow to not just us, but I think the community was really excited about it. But you know, I feel like waiting these two years to let us mature a little bit and think on this idea and start putting more assets into it—I think it's going to be so much better than it would have been two years ago."

With just a few months to go before opening day, RamaPong's concept is more fully fleshed-out than it ever was in 2016. Some of those old ideas remain: The underground space that used to house Gaston's Bakery will host a walk-up service counter (just like at BFC), four Ping-Pong tables (a higher number was chopped to make space for the dining area) and a full bar (yes, really). But now, plans for the bar include a family friendly lunch as well as dinner and late-night hours for the bar crowd.

"Around the service time for lunch until about 4 p.m., it's going to be mostly focused on open seating for families and younger people to enjoy. The bar will probably still be open to a limited capacity, but once 4 p.m. comes around then it's going to be 21 and older only," said Hanebutt.

Those adults-only hours will be when the real magic happens at RamaPong. Walker and Hanebutt hope its opening will mark the beginning of a new bar scene on Capitol Boulevard, catering to the same demographic of young professionals in search of off-the-wall fun that neighboring Spacebar Arcade pulls in.

"We've worked really closely with Will [Hay, co-owner of Spacebar] and he's excited about the project. I think they'll just play off each other really well," Walker said.

To up the entertainment ante, RamaPong will host Ping-Pong and beer pong tournaments, and may even pioneer its own Ping-Pong league. There's no set plan for now on how much Ping-Pong will cost, but Hannebut and Walker are bouncing ideas back and forth.

"I think for the daytime it's going to be first-come, first-serve. For dinner, or the nighttime, you might be able to have access to rent a table, and that gets you a little more table service or something. Those little details are really going to be determined by business," Walker said.

After a demanding game, players will be able to order from a menu of Idaho and Japanese-inspired dishes created by Aaron Kunde, a current BFC employee turned RamaPong head chef. The menu is already nearing completion, and will emphasize organic and local products while also drawing on Kunde's travels overseas.

"It's not going to be traditional ramen, but it's going to be an Idaho-inspired infusion of ramen. So instead of like a pork or chicken broth base, you're going to be looking more at like a bison base," Hanebutt said.

A vegan ramen option centered on sweet potatoes will also appear on the menu, and while Kunde and the BFC team haven't settled on a noodle yet, they've been busy taste-testing imports from Hawaii and Japan, and working with local Asian markets to bring in more options. The menu will start off small, but Walker expects it to grow over time with customer feedback.

"What you see in a year will be far different from what we have when we open," he said.

As for the atmosphere, think cozy Ping-Pong cave. The space will boast limestone walls, exposed beams and a classic basement bar vibe.

"It decorates itself when you have a 100-year-old building," Walker said.

And as if RamaPong weren't enough excitement for the company, BFC has another project in the works: a new shared location with Waffle Me Up, set to break ground in February and open in September at the intersection of Chinden and Linder roads in Eagle. That space promises to be a weathervane of BFC's future look and feel.

In the meantime, Hanebutt had a final word on BFC's plans for RamaPong:

"We want to make sure this is going to be one of the best things to hit downtown Boise."