Restaurant News & Reviews

One of downtown Raleigh’s new ramen shops is set to open

Tonbo Ramen, the two-story restaurant in downtown Raleigh, opens Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, as a downstairs ramen bar and upstairs izakaya, a Japanese pub.
Tonbo Ramen, the two-story restaurant in downtown Raleigh, opens Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, as a downstairs ramen bar and upstairs izakaya, a Japanese pub. jleonard@newsobserver.com

Get your chopsticks at the ready. Tonbo Ramen will open on South Wilmington Street next week.

The two-story restaurant will open Tuesday, Feb. 6, as a downstairs ramen bar and upstairs izakaya, a Japanese pub. It comes from the owners of the steak and sushi Kanki company, who renovated the century-old building at breakneck speed since announcing the restaurant last September. The renovation included an extensive facelift and reconfiguring of the previously vacant space.

Tonbo opens just in time to catch the chill still in Raleigh’s air, offering ramen bowls to warm body and soul. The ramen offerings include porky tonkotsu, soy based shoyu, as well as a shio and miso based bowl. There’s a vegetarian ramen, a seafood and a brothless mazemen. The broths are simmered for up to 20 hours and topped with slow roasted pork belly or shoulder, dumplings, soft cooked eggs and pickled vegetables. There’s also a curveball add-on: grilled avocado.

The upstairs izakaya will specialize in small bites to snack on while drinking. Fresh and simple salads, lamb, pork and vegetable steamed buns, grilled skewers of marinated chicken, beef or pork belly and a plate of blistered shishito peppers are all on the menu. There will be 12 beers on tap, mostly from North Carolina, plus a sake and cocktail list. There’s also a pair of whirling frozen cocktail machines spitting out boozy adult slushies: one rum-based, one bourbon.

The downstairs ramen shop will be open for lunch and dinner, and the izakaya will open at 4 p.m. on weekdays and for lunch and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays.

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The upstairs izakaya at Tonbo Ramen will specialize in small bites to snack on while drinking. There will be 12 beers on tap, mostly from North Carolina, plus a sake and cocktail list. There’s also a pair of whirling frozen cocktail machines spitting out boozy adult slushies, one rum-based, one bourbon. Juli Leonard jleonard@newsobserver.com

“We are super excited to open our doors to the public and appreciate their patience while we put the finishing touches on the restaurant,” said Carol Dowe of Plaza Associates, the owner of Tonbo and Kanki.

Tonbo is in the midst of its friends and family phase, taking the weekend to serve staff members and work out any kinks before opening to the public next week.

The restaurant is at 211 S. Wilmington St. Go to tonboramen.com for more details.

Tonbo is part of the burgeoning noodle bowl scene in downtown Raleigh.

Kaiju Bowl and Bao on Davie Street is in the midst of construction and is shooting for a late February, early March opening. Owner Ken Yowell, who is behind Oak City Meatball Shoppe and Calavera Empanadas, said his latest offering will trend more toward bao than bowl, specializing in the pillowy soft rolls rather than a fully committed ramen shop.

But Kaiju will rotate various kinds of noodles bowls through its menu – sometimes pho, sometimes ramen or sometimes its own take on popular styles.

Meanwhile, Sono Sushi on Fayetteville Street serves ramen for 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 does Bu.ku on Davie Street.

Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson

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