Enduring Houston Ramen Shop Starts OnlyFans Account As it Weathers a Rough Time
Ninja Ramen, located at 4219 Washington Avenue, is known for its unique ramen style, fun environment and what the owner claims is the largest Asian whiskey selection in the country. That’s kept customers coming back for nearly a decade, but right now, the restaurant needs support. On Tuesday, January 30, owner Christopher Huang posted to social media, outlining the hardships Ninja Ramen has faced and his “multi-step plan” to help the business survive another year, which includes several fun new specials delivered with his signature brand of offbeat humor.
The post-pandemic climate has been a tough one for bars and restaurants to navigate. A multitude of factors including skyrocketing inflation, rent and cost of goods, younger generations drinking far less alcohol, and a trend towards cooking at home have all left businesses struggling. These economic woes have caused Ninja Ramen to bring in just 80% of its pre-covid era numbers. Huang explained that “[…] while I raised my ramen prices 50 cents three years ago, costs have gone up approximately 18% in just the past 18 months.” He added that, despite putting money away to help keep the business afloat in the event of such an unfortunate occasion, “at the current rate, we won’t make it for much longer.”
This year has already seen the closure of several Houston restaurants such as Alice Blue in the Heights, Urban Eats, a bistro and market just down Washington Avenue from Ninja Ramen, and Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co., among others. To prevent joining this crowd of former restaurants, Huang has come up with several new promotions to bring in customers. Rotating food specials start in February, and include birria ramen, a special guest chef for Valentine’s Day (to be announced) and the launch of a new, seasonal cocktail menu. The latter will include the Sexpresso Martini, Huang’s seductive take on the en vogue caffeinated libation; a Fancy Midori Sour and, just in time for National Margarita Day, a Spicy Margarita.
Also, Ninja Ramen and Samurai Noodle (which has two locations, the original Houston location at 1801 Durham and a new stall in Lyric Market food hall downtown) are running a cross-promotion. Customers who dine at either business can bring their receipt into the other to receive 10% off their food order. More collaborations and events will be announced soon.
As mentioned, Ninja boasts the largest selection of Asian whiskies in the country, and for a limited time, Huang is marking down the prices on those whiskies 20 to 50%. In addition to whisky, Ninja Ramen has a cocktail menu that offers specialties such as Velvet Milk Tea with rum and falernum; Amy Jo Johnson with mezcal, ube shrub, basil, strawberry and lime; and the Oroku Sake with vodka, crème de violette, lemon, blackberry, raspberry and sparkling sake.
Customers can also look forward to more collaborations with local chefs, bartenders and hospitality professionals. Ninja Ramen has made a name for itself with these creative events, such as October’s Cursed Cauldron, a two-week, Halloween-themed bar takeover. (Those who have followed Ninja Ramen for many years may also remember the infamous time Huang dressed up his whole bar as Anvil Bar & Refuge and imitated several of the bartenders. It’s still one of the funniest moments in Houston bar history.)
Also along the lines of the outrageous: Huang is also starting an OnlyFans for the restaurant. You read that right. Tag or send pictures of yourself eating Ninja Ramen’s “hot noods” and they will be posted to the page. Participants and subscribers will receive yet-to-be-declared perks and benefits.
Many ramen places focus on tonkotsu, a style that uses pork bones steeped for many hours or even a few days as the stock base, but Ninja Ramen focuses on Asahikawa-style. As explained by our founder and editor Phaedra Cook in Houston Food Finder’s 2019 list of the Best Ramen in Houston: “The city of Asahikawa is famous for its shoyu (soy sauce) ramen, which is decidedly different from the more popular miso and tonkotsu styles. Asahikawa-style shoyu ramen is made with a lighter, oilier broth compared to the thick and creamy pork broth in tonkotsu ramen. In this way, shoyu ramen is more akin to its Chinese noodle soup ancestors. The noodles in Asahikawa ramen are also thinner and wavier than other styles, similar in consistency and shape to the noodles in a package of instant ramen or Cup Noodle.”
Mazemen, a creamy, brothless ramen originating in the Japanese city of Nagoya, is also available, as well as aburamen — garlic sesame “oil noodles” with egg, bamboo, nori, green onions and garlic. Leave off the egg to make this a vegan ramen. All ramen offerings can be made spicy.
At Ninja, the first noodle refill for your bowl is free, and just $1.50 for subsequent refills — so it’s a great place to visit when you’re really hungry or are an athlete who needs to carb-load. The toppings are a highlight and include soft-boiled ramen eggs — known as ajitsuke tamago, which are marinated for at least five days and make rich, flavorful additions to any bowl (order extra for just $2 each); menma (seasoned bamboo shoots) which add great texture, and thick slices of Japanese-style braised pork belly called chashu.
Finally, do not miss the opportunity to indulge in one or more SPAM musubis! These delicious Hawaiian snacks made in the tradition of Japanese onigiri are composed of sliced grilled SPAM and white rice wrapped together with nori.
Cool weather-season is a great time to go out for a warming, savory bowl of ramen expertly paired with a craft cocktail or a dram of Japanese whisky — but really, ramen is delicious year-round. Now is a good time to remind yourself — or find out for the first time — why Ninja Ramen is a staple of Washington Avenue.
Ninja Ramen is open Tuesday through Saturday from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m.
Mario-Sebastian Berry is a wine and spirits vendor who has been in the hospitality industry since 2002. Currently, he represents Blanco, Texas-based Andalusia Whiskey Co. and multiple wine labels. Somehow, he also finds time to be Houston Food Finder’s associate editor and social media manager.