Neighborhood Ramen Closing in June to Open ESO Ramen Workshop in The Fall
Neighborhood Ramen plans to close this summer and open ESO Ramen Workshop as they make steps toward their dream of moving to Tokyo.
After more than five successful years serving some of Philadelphia’s best bowls of ramen out of their 3rd Street shop, Lindsay Steigerwald and Jesse Pryor are preparing for their next chapter.
In the fall, they’ll shift their attention to ESO Ramen Workshop, a restaurant at 526 South 4th Street that currently houses their noodle machine and the occasional pop-up. The move is a step toward their lifelong dream of moving to Japan, which they are preparing to do in the next few years. As Steigerwald and Pryor focus their attention on ESO, they plan to close Neighborhood Ramen at the end of June.
ESO Ramen Workshop will likely open in September, with two distinct concepts. The front, a high-ceilinged, bright space, has a bar with space for six people. There, Steigerwald and Pryor will serve bowls of chintan ramen, focusing on chicken, pork and fish-based bowls. They plan to offer short lunch and dinner services for walk-ins only, three or four days a week.
The rest of the week, they’ll focus on gyokai tsukemen, or dipping style ramen, for dinner through reservation only, in the 11-seat back area of the space. ESO, which will only employ Steigerwald and Pryor, is a return to Neighborhood Ramen’s original form: pop-ups they hosted in 2017 out of Pryor’s West Philly apartment.
“When we started looking for a brick-and-mortar, we wanted it to be just Jesse cooking and me serving,” Steigerwald said. “But all the spaces we saw were too big, so we adapted. In Tokyo, the infrastructure allows for shops where there’s just one, maybe two people running the whole place — that’s what we’ve always wanted to do.” They see ESO as a test run for the ramen shop they plan to open in Tokyo, likely under the same Neighborhood Ramen name and branding.
Pryor’s desire to cook ramen in Tokyo was cemented after he and Steigerwold did a successful pop-up there in May 2023 at Menya Nukaji in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo with chef and owner Hiroshi Nukui. As they were developing their recipes and working on the menu, both Pryor and Steigerwald were blown away by the quality and availability of ingredients.
“Jesse was just like, ‘Imagine how much more elevated our ramen could be if we had access to these ingredients,’” Steigerwald remembers. Pryor recalls asking Nukui about getting a dried fish product they use in Philadelphia.
“He was like ‘Oh, well here are five types that we can get in tomorrow, but I really like this because this fish is seasonal, and it’s really good right now,’” Pryor said, quoting Nukui. “In Philadelphia, even if we were trying to order something like that, it would be two months before we could get it. In Tokyo, it was delivered within 24 hours.”
In addition to the sourcing possibilities in Tokyo, Pryor is motivated by the excellence at the shops in Japan.
“I just want to be in the same league as people making really good ramen there,” he said. “I want to be around that. I want to eat at many, many shops all over the place and learn from them.”
Steigerwald, who is half Japanese, anticipates some push back.
“Of course, there will be people who are like ‘I don’t trust this person making my ramen,’” she said. “But from our success with the pop-up, we know that there are also a lot of people that are like ‘Wow, that’s really cool that you love this dish of our culture so much that you’ve dedicated your life to it.’ So I think there’s both ends of the spectrum.”
Even as Pryor and Steigerwald wind down operations at Neighborhood Ramen, they’re excited about its remaining time. In February, they plan to do a final collaboration with a yet-to-be announced restaurant, and they’ll offer a month of their beloved brothless ramen summer menu in June before they officially close at the end of the month. Both Steigerwald and Pryor want their regulars to have plenty of time to eat at the restaurant before they close it, since ESO will have a different menu focus than Neighborhood Ramen.
“When we talk about closing 3rd Street, we both feel really clear that we want to enjoy it for the next five months,” Steigerwald said. “We both want to look back and remember this as a really happy time in our lives, and feel really good about this next evolution of what Neighborhood Ramen can be.”