Restaurant News & Reviews

Downtown Raleigh’s ramen scene is heating up. Another noodle shop is going to open.

Classic shoyu ramen at Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in the New York
Classic shoyu ramen at Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in the New York NYT

What was once a ramen desert in downtown is becoming a ramen scene.

Tonbo Ramen, a noodle shop with an upstairs bar, is coming to 211 S. Wilmington St. in downtown Raleigh. The owners are the team from Kanki, which owns three steak and sushi restaurants and one noodle shop across the Triangle. This will be the group’s first venture into downtown Raleigh; all of the other shops are in or nearby the area’s main shopping malls.

“It’s so wonderful to be downtown and have all these great restaurants to feed off of,” said Carol Dowe with Plaza Associates, the group behind Kanki and now Tonbo. “Naturally we want to be where the excitement is right now.”

The two-story noodle shop is scheduled to open by the end of the year, owners said in a news release.

The news comes shortly after Kaiju Bowl and Bao announced last month it would open on Davie Street. That restaurant will be opened by Ken Yowell, who owns Oak City Meatball Shoppe and Calavera Empanadas and Tequila next door. It may open by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Sono Sushi, which earlier this year installed a new management team and chef, serves ramen at lunch and dinner at its Fayetteville Street restaurant. The District on West Morgan Street also serves ramen as part of its eclectic comfort food menu.

As for Tonbo, it will move into a vacant 98-year-old building on the same block as Trophy Brewing Tap and Table, Chuck’s Burgers and Taz’s Supermarket. Renovations are underway.

Dowe said they would try to preserve as much of the original space as possible.

“Quite a bit needs to be done (to the space),” Dowe said. “It was unoccupied, and we’re trying to hang on to as many of the historical pieces as possible.”

On the ground floor, Tonbo will be a traditional ramen shop, with bar stools and tables and serving shio, shoyu and tonkotsu styles, as well as vegetarian options. In a release, Tonbo’s owners say the ramen broth takes 20 hours to make.

“A lot of restaurants have noodles on their menu, but with Tonbo we’re really trying to be authentic,” Dowe said. “That comes from the broth and the way it’s made, which can be quite a process. It means making stocks and broths that sometimes take 12, 15, 20 hours to make.”

The upstairs izakaya will go for speakeasy vibes and will serve small plates and snacks like steamed buns and yakitori, as well as craft cocktails and Japanese whiskey.

“The menu at Tonbo will feature freshly prepared ramen dishes with select ingredients to complement the broth,” chef Alex Cordova said in a release. “Ramen is meant for sustenance and delight at the same time. Tonbo is intended to provide both.”

The restaurant’s name comes from the Japanese word for dragonfly, according to a news release.


Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson

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