Downtown Phoenix's dining scene will get a little bigger when SoSoBa ramen restaurant opens this December.
The location will be the second for the noodle shop and cocktail bar. The original SoSoba opened in Flagstaff last November. The experiment was a joint venture among Tyler Christensen, Joel Dry, and chef Joshua Riesner with a goal: Take something traditional and put a twist on it.
It's seasonal ramen. Chef-driven ramen. Ramen that definitely doesn't look like what you're picturing ramen. And it's more than just ramen. The resulting entrées are a marriage of culture clashes, borrowing from Vietnamese, Thai, and Korean traditions and adding a Creole and south-of-the-border flair.
"We have been very well received in Flagstaff, [and] downtown Phoenix has already begun supporting us in a big way," Christensen says. "We launched our online marketing to get the word out, and the common response has been, 'Took ya long enough!'
"[The] interests of the local dining public are directing this expansion of SoSoBa to Roosevelt Row," he continues. "We've been watching for a while. We didn't choose this location; we were drawn here. We hope to deliver a wholly new and refreshing concept to the neighborhood."
SoSoBa will move into the street-facing space at 214 West Roosevelt Street, which has remained vacant since Centurion shuttered its European-inspired spot nearly eight months ago. Now the Roman warrior that once stood by the entrance is being replaced with SoSoBa's rooster mascot — cleaver in claw. The self-proclaimed "nonstop noodle shop" joins an area already populated by Pita Jungle, Lola Coffee, and Forno 301, which opened this spring across Third Avenue.
"In our opinion, Roosevelt Row is bigger than its current constraints," Christensen says of the decision to choose west Roosevelt over east. "We're going to do our part to help 'connect the 7s' and make Roosevelt Row an experience that envelops Seventh Avenue to Seventh Street. We are very interested in being part of the growth of downtown as a whole."
Neither Christensen nor Riesner are novices to the restaurant scene. Christensen has lived in the Valley since he was 8 years old and has been involved in numerous restaurants around town, including Postino and Malee's Thai Bistro. He's also had a hand in many of Tucker Woodbury's projects, from Little Woody and The King to Linger Longer Lounge and The Vig. He made the move to Flagstaff last year to open The McMillan on Route 66 with Woodbury before embarking on his own venture.
Riesner arguably is best known for Pig & Pickle, a collaborative effort in upscale comfort food in South Scottsdale. Riesner opened the spot with fellow chef-owner Keenan Bosworth in late 2012. Riesner left the outfit in 2013. (The two previously had worked together at Atlas Bistro.) Prior to his time in town, Riesner worked as a chef for the better part of two decades in and around Las Vegas.
"The [SoSoBa] space in Phoenix is larger, which will allow us to have some fun and be creative," Riesner says.
Those familiar with the Flagstaff menu will find their favorites. The Mic Drop, featuring pork belly, carnitas, ham fries, and bacon on top of udon noodles, scallions, and a signature soft-boiled egg in pork broth, will remain as a staple, as will katsu, with ramen and panko chicken in a miso broth. The Hostile Takeover, a bulgogi beef-and-broccoli-oriented bowl with soba noodles; the sweet chili udon, which includes the creative addition of pork belly and chicharrón; and the Mothra, a tofu-based bowl, round out the menu's mainstays.
Riesner says he's been playing with other items like sweet chili glazed calamari, duck confit banh mi spring rolls, and French onion soup ramen with fried cheese, and plans to introduce a rotation of seasonal bowls and appetizers, many of which are created to pair with the bar's whiskey-driven cocktail menu.
The menu is pork-heavy — a given, considering Riesner's background. But vegetarians and vegans will have plenty of choices too, as the menu is adaptable and even offers some options for those with strict diets. The price points are pocket-friendly, hovering between $9 and $12 for salads, bowls, or shareable plates.
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SoSoBa is slated to open sometime in December, though there is no specific date yet.
Both locations will share the same hours: Thursdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m.; Sundays through Wednesdays until midnight. Full menu is served until close.
Those who don't want to wait until winter to get their fix of this unconventional spin on ramen — and who are willing to drive two hours north to visit — head to the Flagstaff location at 12 East Route 66, Suite 104.