Ramen Shack, an OC restaurant from the inventor of Ramen Burger, is closing permanently

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The Ramen Shack, one of Orange County’s most famous new restaurants, is closing after a year in business. shutter. July 30 was the last day the San Juan Capistrano ramen shop was open.

Closing the shop was not on its owner’s mind in June 2022, when the Ramen Shack collaborated with Heritage Barbecue to host a one-day Ramen Burger event. People waited over three hours to try the central dish of the collaboration: a Ramen Burger filled with half pound cold smoked hash patties.

Daniel Castillo and Shimamoto, the pitmaster of Heritage Barbecue, served 500 burgers made from Shimamoto’s signature ramen noodle rolls and secret Shoyu sauce, then topped with arugula and green onions. Crowds gathered around the corner that day: some people anticipated the wait and brought lawn chairs and umbrellas. Many took selfies in front of the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano across the street. It seemed like almost everyone who visited downtown Capistrano that morning was there to try the Ramen Burger/Heritage Barbecue creation; there was a party vibe to the event, the stage looked almost like a stadium tailgate. But amid the rejoicing that day, Shimamoto had no idea that in less than two months he would be closing Ramen Shack.

Daniel Castillo and Keizo Shimamoto holding their Ramen burgers x Heritage Barbecue collaboration burger.
Ron De Angelis

The Ramen Shack served its last bowls this weekend, just over a year after opening. On July 29, Shimamoto let his followers know about instagram that his shop would close at the end of the month. That morning, the restaurant opens early, at 10:30 a.m., and a few regulars take their places at the bar. His dedicated supporters showed up for one last bowl to sip on the spot; more people ordered extra ramen to take away. Although the kitchen was slammed and tables were pushed back, no one seemed upset. In fact, the tsukemen with a thick broth of tonkotsu dip and the signature shoyu ramen were selling well. A regular diner brought Shimamoto a box of Cream Pan croissants, and Castillo walked in with a sizable helping of slow-smoked brisket. Castillo sat down at the bar and Shimamoto prepared him a bowl of dry noodles coated in sweet soy-chili sauce, fresh arugula and a large slice of brisket. It was an off-menu specialty, just something he came up with on the fly, but for a few early diners who tried the dish, it was a reminder of why the Ramen Shack will be missed.

Shimamoto, like many restaurateurs, has faced staffing and supply chain issues. In March, his deputy left and he couldn’t find the right replacement. He also worried that his ramen wouldn’t always live up to his standards. Shimamoto’s viral sensation, the Ramen Burger, his original claim to fame, was only occasionally offered at the noodle shop; it was not a permanent item that could be a boon to other restaurant operations.

“I’m afraid to say too much,” says Shimamoto, who created the Ramen Burger in 2013. “Unfortunately, I have decided, together with the partners, to close the Ramen Shack. It was a difficult start to the year. We had good momentum at the end of 2021. Of course, with the return of omicron and its impact on business in January, it is difficult to continue. Then I had health problems from February.

Shimamoto had chest pains. An X-ray, CT scan and other tests determined the problem was in Shimamoto’s lung, but diagnostic evaluation is ongoing. “It weighed on my mind,” he says. “It was mentally stressful because there are a lot of unknowns. I try to be strong for my family and make sure they are okay. He shared the news with his family (Shimamoto is married with three young children) but kept his health issue a secret from the public. “I didn’t know we were going to close Ramen Shack [in June],” he says. “But with everything considered with my health and the way business is going, it seems fair to shut it down now.”

Shimamoto’s business partners will keep the space in San Juan Capistrano but change the concept to a Filipino/islander breakfast restaurant called Breezy. The team behind Shootz, the fast-casual Hawaiian-style street food restaurant, is slated to open Breezy in mid-August.

Shimamoto, meanwhile, leaves the kitchen to focus on his family and his health. “For me, it’s like my love for ramen has taken me to some pretty cool places. Things I never imagined.” His apprentices went on to open their own restaurants like Menya Hosaki in Washington. and keep thanking Shimamoto for showing them how to make ramen. “But also now I have three kids and a family and I’m trying to raise them properly so I can be more present in their lives,” Shimamoto says.

It will always work with ramen in a way. On July 28, he announced that he would bring his expertise to Ramen Pathcentered on noodles podcast and the YouTube channel, where he will present different bowls and techniques. Although he’s walking away from his restaurant in San Juan Capistrano, Shimamoto doesn’t think this is the end of the Ramen Burger or the Ramen Shack. “We don’t rule out the possibility of bringing it back in the future,” he says. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

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