In this new fast-casual ramen restaurant located in the bustling 8th Street Market in Bentonville, Arkansas, seemingly unrefined materials help create a quiet oasis. The simple materiality has been handled with care to shape a composed and richly textured space that focuses inward while creating a compelling dissonance between new and old.
The market opened in 2016 inside a former Tyson Foods plant. Where processed chicken tenders were once churned out daily, a food hub now offers shoppers and diners exciting opportunities to share meals and build community. CO-OP Ramen provides a social and comfortable space, presenting ramen, a humble yet elevated dish, in surroundings that reflect its nature and popularity. While the food provides an intense culinary experience, the surroundings offer moments of seclusion from the commotion of the surrounding market.
Beaded steel curtains obscure views into the restaurant, shrouding the complete experience until diners enter the space. The curtains also reduce and soften the light entering the restaurant, furthering the calming aura and encouraging hushed tones among those dining within. Upon entering, guests are greeted by a wooden ceiling, crafted from construction-quality plywood, that runs throughout the restaurant. The ceiling, which boasts careful joinery and detailing, is illuminated by concealed fixtures. Light travels through the depth of the plywood in the deeply coffered ceiling, forcing an interplay of light and shadow in its recesses.
Where processed chicken tenders were once churned out daily, a food hub now offers shoppers and diners exciting opportunities to share meals and build community.
The wood's warmth contrasts with the restaurant's concrete block walls, a reference to its handmade character and the market's industrial history. Its warm yellow finish resonates with the custom-made white oak furniture. While different, it is clear that they were both crafted by the same hands. A 12-foot living green wall helps soften the carefully laid block walls, and guests are provided views of the chefs at work in the open kitchen. A variety of seating, from booths to communal dining tables to bar seating, is provided.
At just 2,000 square feet, CO-OP Ramen has emerged as a destination within a destination. Its interiors are highlighted by a variety of spaces that are all aligned with the overarching design. Through the team's design strategy, the restaurant offers an uplifting experience within an industrial remnant, lending it a clear sense of both humanity and scale.