OAKLAND -- With Ramen Shop's discreet signage and darkened windows, it's the line that snakes down the block that is the easiest way to spot one of Rockridge's new destination restaurants on College Avenue.
Ramen Shop is just one of a slew of high-profile openings on College Avenue, where a wave of trendsetting restaurants are replacing some of the old neighborhood standbys. It's part of the cutting-edge Oakland dining scene, which is turning the city into a top eating spot.
"I'm really excited about the future of Oakland," said Ramen Shop co-founder Sam White.
Ramen Shop, at 5812 College Ave., is tucked away in a convenient spot near the Rockridge BART station, across from the always-bustling Zachary's Pizzeria in the space formerly occupied by sushi restaurant Tachibana.
It's a passion project for White and his partners, Jerry Jaksich and Rayneil De Guzman, all of whom love ramen noodle soup, White said.
"It was something we kind of collectively were totally obsessed with," White said.
Time spent in Japan solidified the idea that ramen, which White said has the mystique and familiarity that the burrito does for Californians, was in their future.
"Especially coming from Chez Panisse, I liked the idea ramen was something that was so accessible," he said.
There was early buzz even before the restaurant opened, and it has been crowded with not only neighborhood families but people driving from San Francisco or farther.
"The response has been so positive that it keeps me going," he said.
Further north, the well-known Old Oakland bar Trappist has opened an outpost close to the popular restaurant Wood Tavern. With nine beers on tap and more than one hundred bottles, the tiny Trappist Provisions, 6309 College Ave., is a combination of a bar and a bottle shop, with tables and bar seating overlooked by shelves with a carefully curated selection of top beers.
"What we do is just different," said Stephen Laborde, the general manager of Trappist. "We're unique in that way."
The Trappist was looking for a place to expand, and Laborde said Rockridge was perfect, with plenty of locals coming in to try new things as well as beer geek customers from all over.
"We fit right into what this whole block is about," he said.
James Syhabout, the chef behind the East Bay's only Michelin-starred restaurant, Commis, as well as downtown's Hawker Fare, is taking over the space formerly occupied by Somerset. The new restaurant, Box and Bells at 5912 College Ave., will have a complicated but appealing and meat-heavy menu by chef Benjamin Coe, who is with Syhabout at Commis. A pop-up preview dinner to road test the menu sold out in three minutes, Syhabout said.
At the southern end of College Avenue, the short-lived Hudson at 5356 College Ave. is being replaced by a new restaurant by the restaurateurs behind A16, the highly praised San Francisco Italian restaurant. And just a few doors down from Ramen Shop, another pizzeria will open up: Jules Thin Crust at 5804 College Ave., which is already well known in Danville for its flatbread-like pizza.
There are even more openings in the works, as a new restaurant scene that is gaining momentum across the city creeps into Rockridge. White, a Berkeley native, said he was proud the Ramen Shop was an Oakland business.
"We definitely wanted to be in Oakland," he said.